Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lessons in Drag, a performance by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activist Kareem Khubchandani, will be held Sunday, March 2 at 8:30 p.m. at Public Space One, located at 120 N. Dubuque St. in Iowa City. The performance raises issues of gender discipline while exploring South Asian popular culture through anecdotes, monologues, research interviews, stand-up comedy, and dance.

The performance will be followed by a next-day panel discussion, “United Against 377? The Politics of Resistance to India’s Sodomy Law” to take place Monday, March 3, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at 1117 University Capitol Centre. Both events are free and open to the public.

The panel will feature Khubchandani and fellow scholar-activists Elakshi Kumar and Aniruddha Dutta, who have several years of experience with Indian LGBT communities and movements.

About Indian Penal Code 377

In December 2013, the Supreme Court of India reinstated Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC 377), a colonial-era law that criminalizes any “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” Similar to the sodomy laws established in many other parts of the erstwhile British Empire, the law targets certain sex acts rather than any sexual or gender identity.

However, the law is widely understood as specifically criminalizing homosexuality. For many activists as well as the media, it has become a powerful symbol of discrimination against LGBT Indians.

At the same time, other activists have criticized the movement against IPC 377 for ignoring more substantial concerns facing disenfranchised LGBT people, such as working class transgender communities. They believe 377 is a relatively minor cause of discrimination when compared to the quotidian forms of violence and stigma faced by such people.

About the panelists

Khubchandani is a doctoral candidate in performance studies at Northwestern University writing a dissertation titled “Ishtyle: Queer Nightlife Performance in India and the South Asian Diaspora.” He is an activist working with the LGBT South Asian organization Trikone-Chicago, and with the Bangalore Campaign for Sexuality Minorities Rights. He is also a performance artist working in storytelling, drag, and dance.

Aniruddha Dutta is an assistant professor in the departments of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies and Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Iowa, and is also associated in advisory and voluntary capacities with several community-based organizations for transgender and queer people in eastern India.

Dutta’s current research project, “Globalizing through the Vernacular: The Making of Gender and Sexual Minorities in Eastern India,” examines how gender/sexual identity politics in India challenges, reconfigures or reproduces structural hierarchies of class/caste and unequal access to citizenship.

Elakshi Kumar is a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota in the department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. His research examines the complex embodiments and sociocultural articulations of female-masculinities at the intersections of Hindu nationalism, globalization, Queer and lower caste social movements in Indian public culture.

Kumar is affiliated with community-based groups like Sampoorna and Qashti, that organize and advocate for trans masculine people in India. He is also an alum of the Brown Boi Project.

The performance and panel discussion are part of the South Asian Studies Program (SASP) seminar series, and were made possible by SASP in International Programs; the Department of Theatre Arts, and the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the UI Center for Human Rightsin the College of Law; the Women's Resource & Action Center; and the LGBT Resource Center.

For a full schedule of SASP seminar series events, visit here.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact Sarolta Petersen in advance at 319-335-3862.