The past decade has rendered salient changes to what it means to be a man who has sex with other men (MSM) in India. A collision of indigenous, post-colonial, and modern Western forces, along with a rapid but disparate rise in wealth and power, has fostered substantial transformations in social and sexual mores. The recent repeal of Penal Code 377 and the first male to male "Bollywood kiss" are tangible manifestations of the empowerment that these transformations have brought. Yet Western thought and tradition surrounding homosexual identity and behavior, including the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy itself, is increasingly recognized as a poor framework for understanding male sexuality in India.
The rountable discussion, "Sexual Identity, Health and Stigma in India: Traditional Statuses and Western Influences," sought to further current discourse around the forces that shape the lives of MSM in India today by addressing critical influences relevant to male sexual identity and health in modern India. An international panel of distinguished scholars from diverse fields including anthropology, sociology, economics and medicine met on Saturday, August 13, 2011 for a lively discussion hosted by the University of Chicago.
Over 300 viewers tuned into the webcast from more than 18 countries on three continents. The discussion can be fully viewed in the two videos below.
A look at the first appearances of HIV/AIDS in India, and the social and risk categories that were constructed around it.
The landmark Delhi High Court ruling in 2009 which overturned Section 377 prohibiting homosexual acts.
Outrage after Indian Health Minister calls male homosexuality "unnatural" at a recent HIV/AIDS conference in Delhi.
Lawrence Cohen, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
Lawrence Cohen is an associate professor in the departments of anthropology and South and Southeast Asian studies at UC Berkeley. He is a social cultural anthropologist whose primary field is the critical study of medicine, health, and the body. Professor Cohen has worked extensively in India, and two of his current projects include “India Tonite,” which examines homoerotic identification and representation in the context of political and market logics in urban north India, and “The Other Kidney,” about the nature of immunosuppression and its accompanying global traffic in organs for transplant. In addition to medical and psychiatric anthropology, Professor Cohen’s research interests are critical gerontology, lesbian and gay studies, and feminist and queer theory. For more information, visit Professor Cohen's website.
Sanjay Srivastava, PhD, Department of Sociology, Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi
Sanjay Srivastava is an anthropologist with research interests in masculinities, sexualities, urban and middle-class cultures. His key publications include 'Constructing Post-Colonial India: National Character and the Doon School' (1998), 'Asia: Cultural politics in the Global Age' (2001, co-author), 'Sexual Sites, Seminal Attitudes: Sexualities, Masculinities and Culture in South Asia' (2004, contributing editor), and 'Passionate Modernity: Sexuality, Class, and Consumption in India' (2007). His forthcoming publications include 'Entangled Spaces. '"Slum", Gated Community and Mall in "Global" Delhi’ and 'The OUP Sexualities in India Reader' (contributing editor). He is co-editor of the journal Contributions to Indian Sociology, and member of the South Asian Network to Address Masculinities (SANAM), a research forum for academics and NGO workers. He is currently ARC Future Fellow at the Australian National University, on leave from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. He is a former chairman of Branksome Hall School.
John Schneider, MD, MPH, Department of Medicine and Health Studies, University of Chicago, Chicago, Roundtable Host
John Schneider serves in the Departments of Medicine and Health Studies at the University of Chicago, and is Director of Global Health Programs in the Department of Medicine. His interests include the social and sexual networks of high-risk men, including men who have sex with men (MSM) and truck drivers, network based modeling and interventions, and HIV/STI transmission dynamics and prevention. He has extensive research experience with population in the South Side of Chicago and in southern India, where he recently conducted an innovative cell-phone social network study of MSM. For more information, visit Professor Schneider's website.
Anjali Arondekar, PhD, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Anjali Arondekar is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research engages the poetics and politics of sexuality, colonialism and historiography. She is the author of For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India (Duke University Press, 2009), 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, 2010. Her second book-project, Margins of Desire: Sexuality, Historiography, South Asia, grows out of her interest in the figurations of sexuality, ethics and collectivity in colonial British and Portuguese India. For more information, visit Professor Arondekar's website.
Niranjan Karnik, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, Chicago
Niranjan Karnik is an adolescent psychiatrist and sociologist in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Dr. Karnik attended the Medical Scholars Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he completed both his medical degree and Ph.D. in Sociology. His thesis examined the experiences and history of street children in Mumbai, India. After medical school he completed his general psychiatry residency and child psychiatry fellowship at Stanford University. Dr. Karnik’s current research interests include health disparities, underserved and vulnerable populations including street, homeless, foster, and refugee youth, and community-based intervention which address social and cultural factors. For more information, visit Professor Karnik's website.
Philip Kumar, MA, Independent Consultant, Hyderabad
Philip Kumar is an independent consultant based out of Hyderabad. He has considerable on the ground experience working with men who have sex with men (MSM) populations in Andhra Pradesh, India. He regularly advises the Indian government including the National AIDS Control Organization on matters related to MSM and HIV.
William Mazzarella, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, Chicago
William Mazzarella currently serves as associate professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, as well as chair for the Committee on Southern Asia Studies (COSAS). His research focuses on the political anthropology of mass publicity, commodity aesthetics and post-coloniality with an ethnographic focus on India. He has authored Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India and will soon publish his an additional book, The Censor's Fist: Performative Dispensations, Cinema, and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity. He is also the co-editor of Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction. Professor Mazzarella is currently researching a new book on the charismatic and controversial Bombay advertising agency MCM, tentatively titled Mad Men of Bombay: A Tale of Magic Found and Lost. For more information, visit Professor Mazzarella's website.
Stuart Michaels, PhD, National Opinion Research Center, Chicago
Stuart Michaels is a Senior Research Scientist for NORC at the University of Chicago. The primary focus of his research has been homosexuality both in the U.S. and internationally. Trained as a sociologist, he wrote the homosexualtiy chapters for the seminal sex survey in the United States; The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. He has published extensively on issues of sexuality and health in journals such as Science and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. He was formerly the Assistant Director for Curriculum and Development, Center for Gender Studies at the University of Chicago.
Gayatri Reddy, PhD, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Chicago
Gayatri Reddy’s research lies at the intersections of sexuality, health and the politics of identity-formation in India, and more recently, among the diasporic South Asian community in the United States. Professor Reddy has held fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Association for Women in Science and the National Science Foundation. In Spring 2005, Professor Reddy joined the Editorial Collective for the journal Feminist Studies. Her newest research, funded by the Social Science Research Council, is on a project entitled "Queer Borders: Constructions of South Asian (male) Queer Identities in the United States." Dr. Reddy serves as associate professor for the University of Illinois Department of Gender and Women’s Studies and Department of Anthropology. For more information, visit Professor Reddy's website.