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Anthropology (Re)Discovers Sexuality and Gender Identity: Lessons in Materialist Critique from A Dispersed Ethnography

11.07.2024 | 18:00

Svati P. Shah, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Anthropology (Re)Discovers Sexuality and Gender Identity: Lessons in Materialist Critique from A Dispersed EthnographySvati P. Shah, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 

In this talk, I examine why and how spatial dispersal serves as a core method in emphasizing questions of materialism and political economy in queer and transgender ethnography. I am particularly interested in the ways in which spatial dispersal is not merely expedient, but serves as a critical practice that arises from both queer anthropology and from anticolonial critiques of fixed categories and ahistorical temporalities – i.e., ‘traditions’ – long associated with structural functionalism and the quest to extract social patterns and representative typologies from the study of small scale social units.  The intersections of critical queer and anticolonial traditions within the discipline are salient here for the ways they offer an antidote to the gravitational pull of fixed identity in studies of non-normative gender identity and sexual practice and comportment. This antidote is necessary for undoing the distinction between sexuality and political economy, driven by adherence to a distinction between the public and private sphere. While the formation of identity is well within the purview of the study of sexuality and gender identity, the reduction of these categories of analysis to identity as demarcated away from the material can bleed into identity as a stable biological fact. I show that queer and trans ethnography elicits new insights for ethnography writ large, especially in the relation between the idea of ‘biological life’ and emplacement. Woven through this analysis are vignettes from a long-term ethnography of queer and trans social movements embedded within feminist and anti-capitalist critique in India.

Zeit & Ort

11.07.2024 | 18:00

Seminarraum B
Ihnestr. 21
14195 Berlin

SFB 1171 Affective Societies
Berlin Southern Theory Lecture