UPDATE: Transgendering Human Rights (3/21/07; MLA '07)

full name / name of organization: 
Basuli Deb
contact email: 

Transgendering Human Rights: A Postcolonial Reading of Subcultures of

Call for papers for 2007 MLA, Chicago, December 27-30

Postcolonial narratives of the transgendered have framed themselves in ways
distinct from those encountered in the Euro-American circuits of cultural
production and distribution. In India the sexual practices of the
transgendered were acknowledged and elaborated in the treatise on
sexualityâ€"Kamasutra. But during British colonial rule the transgendered
community came under legal surveillance for issues of public decency. In
postcolonial India the transgendered collective of the hijras, with the oft
experienced multidimensional violence against them, have come to signify the
deep structural connection between socioeconomic exploitation and lack of
civil/political rights. Controversial texts like Domique Lapierre’s City
of Joy, resisted as the product of the imperialistic gaze, have traced the
lifestyle of the transgendered community in Calcutta. In the light of the
above, this proposed special session of the MLA aims to examine how violence
in its many forms against the transgendered community across a range of
geopolitics has been addressed through various cultural productions and the
politics around such representations. The goal is to locate ourselves at the
intersection of various representational practices and human rights laws and
politics around the figure of the transgendered in postcolonial contexts.

The following questions might suggest possible routes of exploration though
we are looking forward to other innovative thinking:

       How do cultural representations of transgendered lives challenge the
current legal discourse of human rights?

       Does locating the representation of transgender issues in cultural
productions within a framework based on the systemic link between
socioeconomic rights and civil and political rights significantly alter our
understanding of transgender cultures?

       Can the socioeconomic position of the transgendered be traced through
the changing discourses on sexuality?

       How does the politics of postcolonial representations of the
transgendered demarcate itself from that of other transgendered

       What are the distinctive textual strategies which transgendered
people use to negotiate prescriptive religions that facilitate the
performance of normative gender roles as routes of access to spiritual
salvation? What are the other kinds of representational activities of the
transgendered that facilitate such negotiations?

       Finally, how have auto-ethnographies of transgendered
individuals/collectivesâ€"whether in the form of photographic exhibitions,
documentary films, or other narratives genresâ€"significantly differed from
state-sanctioned discourses about the transgendered?

Please e-mail abstracts of 250-500 words along with contact information and
a 2-page CV by March 21 to:

Basuli Deb
Michigan State University, USA


Annedith Schneider
Sabanci University, Turkey

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Received on Tue Mar 13 2007 - 20:50:47 EST