Circumscribed recognition

Creating a space for young queer people in Delhi

Authored by: Corinne L. Mason

Routledge Handbook of Queer Development Studies

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  January  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138693753
eBook ISBN: 9781315529530
Adobe ISBN:


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In recent years, the status of sexual minorities in India has been the focus of significant contestations: same-sex sexuality was decriminalized in 2009, only to be recriminalized in 2013. These changes have generated intense debates on the importance and meaning of recognition in connection to sexual minorities. In this chapter, my aim is to illuminate how recognition is experienced by young queer people (16–25 year olds) living in Delhi. In particular, I focus on Niral Club, a grassroots queer⁠ youth group based in Delhi whose activities I followed during a three-month ethnographic fieldwork period in 2012. Privileging non-political positions, solidarity, and leisure activities, Niral Club offers its members the possibility to feel recognized and ‘normal’. In doing this, Niral Club provides what I call circumscribed recognition, which responds to the desires of many young Indian queers who look for recognition and peer solidarity, while not fully subscribing to activist-inspired discourses about sexual rights and socio-legal equality. The main objective of my chapter is to further a situated analysis of ‘other’ queer subjects who are neither inherently radical nor passively assimilated. This analysis is made possible by understanding recognition as an ambiguous object that needs to be negotiated against the many attachments, desires, and constraints that young queer people navigate as they try to live a liveable life in a social context marked by persistent stigmatization.

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