From Postcolonial to Decolonial:
Examining Complicites in Transnational Queerdom and Imagining Decolonial Futures
In 2009, R. Raj Rao, India’s famous LGBT activist and author of The Boyfriend, claimed regarding Indian academia: “It’s strange how the academic fraternity that has always been quick to accept all kinds of literature — Marxist, feminist, Dalit — had a huge reservation when it came to queer literature. For years, the Board of Studies refused to let us start the course saying that ‘Indian students do not need it’. Finally we clubbed it with Dalit literature and started it under the genre of Alternative Literature.” While Rao is correct in exposing the reluctance of academia in accepting queer literature as worthy of analysis, his solution—of clubbing queer literature with Dalit literature—assumes not only how these literatures are aesthetically or politically similar, but also that the marginalization of queerness in the South Asian postcolony is similar to caste-based violence. His argument grossly ignores how postcolonial queer literature, while dealing with subversive subjects who do not fit into heteronormativity, often draws on lives of middle-class or middle-upper class characters; it also ignores how queer and feminist South Asian literature is often classist, casteist, and complicit in neocolonial notions of gender and sexuality. Rao’s dangerous claims regarding the lumping together of queer and Dalit literatures demonstrate how subaltern issues have been appropriated to lay claims to sexual oppression, while reproducing class and caste-based hegemony. Keeping in mind this dangerous conflation of “queer” with “subaltern,” my paper explores decolonial sexualities by recognizing postcolonial queer complicities in the violence of globalization. How do we create decolonial sexual futures, how do we de-link our current understanding of our sexualities from colonial logics, and how we re-imagine our remembrance of the past all the while remaining cognizant of the complicity of postcolonial representations and frameworks in neocolonial impulses? At the heart of my paper is the debate between postcolonial or transnational queer studies, and decolonial queer theory.