Panel: "Thinking with Sexology in South Asia: Science at the Boundary" 2023 ACSA, UW Madison

deadline for submissions: 
April 2, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison
contact email: 

Thinking with Sexology in South Asia: Science at the Boundary


This panel mobilizes the semantic compass of the concept “boundary” to rethink the post/colonial and global histories of sexual science in and from South Asia. Dominant accounts of sexology have concentrated on its origins in the Western, primarily German, context as a distinct “Sexualwissenschaft” or institutionalized science of sex. But sexology was often itself a marginal form of knowledge-making that emerged at the edges of more well-established disciplines like biomedicine, psychiatry, anthropology, and zoology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and itself propelled technologies of endocrinology and eugenics across the globe. Underfunded, overextended, and barely “respectable,” sexology’s portability across disciplines depended on its apparent liminality as a para-scientific idiom—one which could and often did threaten to become a constitutive principle for the organization of those disciplines. In turn, sexology itself partook in the creation of boundaries between global/local, literature/science, language/vernacular, savage/civilized, science/pornography, normal/deviant, elite/popular, and modernity/premodernity. Recognizing these tensions, recent scholarship like Sexology and Translation (2015) and A Global History of Sexual Science (2018), “Sexology and its Afterlives” (2021), and “The Science of Sex Itself” (2023), as well as more specifically South Asian histories of sexology like “Translating Sex: Locating Sexology in Indian History” (2020), Indian Sex Life (2020) and Sex, Law, and the Politics of Age (2021) have focused on the regional and multi-directional linguistic flows and networked capacities of sexology. Building on the urgency of this scholarship, this panel brings together papers that leverage the unstable status of sexology as a science in and across South Asia.

 Panel papers might consider the concept-metaphor of boundary through debates about marginal and marginalized subjects/objects of research within sexology; geography and scale in terms of centers, peripheries, and alternative circulatory nodes; disciplinary boundaries between sexology and allied or antagonistic forms of knowledge; and distinctions between expert and popular modes of sexual knowledge production.

We are looking for a panelist to round out a panel of 4 speakers in total. If you are interested in participating in this panel, please reach out to Rovel Sequeira at at your earliest convenience (final abstracts may be submitted by 02 April, 2023, at the latest).