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Anjali Arondekar: "Telling Tales: Sexuality, Exemplarity, South Asia"

It has now become commonplace, particularly for those of us who work within histories of sexuality in South Asia, to argue that historical archives must be read as spaces of imperial and neo-colonial constitution than empiricism, all of which have made us rethink how and why an archive gets constituted. It would then seem equally important to engage our narrative rituals of archival consumption and dissemination, particularly as they unfold in rights-based projects. I explore one such narrative ritual that continues to inaugurate most queer projects of historical recuperation in India: the detail, the legal case, the anecdote, an archival trace that is often a tantalizing obstacle to clarity, which then comes alive through our reconstructive hermeneutics. For scholars working at the interstices of minoritized historiographies, the archival trace often becomes a crucial way of resolving the crisis of marginality where the scarcity of historical evidence is refused by the hermeneutical performance of plenitude --where you mine the archival legal record for the promise of historical precedence and futurity. Two questions are central here: What makes something an archival exemplar, adequate to the challenge of representation and study? Why does the writing of a history of sexuality take a particular narrative form, and what creates obstacles to its seamless unfolding?
Anjali Arondekar is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies and Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research engages the poetics and politics of sexuality, colonialism and historiography, with a focus on South Asia. She is the author of For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Duke University Press, 2009; Orient Blackswan, 2010), winner of the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award for best book in lesbian, gay, or queer studies in literature and cultural studies, Modern Language Association (MLA), 2010. Her second book-project, In the Absence of Reliable Ghosts: Sexuality, Historiography, South Asia, grows out of her interest in the figurations of sexuality, ethics and collectivity in colonial British and Portuguese India.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014. 12:00PM


Encina Hall West, Room 208


Center for South Asia




Free and open to the public.