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The Lila of Gender: Sexing the Body in South Asia
The Lila of Gender: Sexing the Body in South Asia
WhenThursday, Mar 1, 2018, 3 – 4 p.m.
Campus locationThomson Hall (THO)
Campus room317
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsSouth Asia Center

Working through textual and ethnographic materials, this talk approaches the question of how to think about gender, sexual difference, and sexuality in South Asia through three cases in the reconstitution of the body and the family. I take accounts of gender transition in the religious epics as my first case. For the second case I turn to a recent campaign of hair reform aimed at remaking the sexuality and religiosity of illicit temple women.  I draw on vernacular oral narratives of the origin of a devi (goddess) in matricide and beheading for the third case.  Within each of these cases transformation in gendered embodiment, sexual orientation, and familial form is figured less as the external expression of an inner psychic biography or structure and more as mode of religious devotion or expression or an answer to a call from a deity. How might these cases open up the question of what gender is or how it can be thought?  If gender might be understood as a form of lila, or the play of the gods, how might these cases queer religion as well as psychoanalytic framings of sexuality as the secular effect of psychic structure?

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