Tuesday, 2019/04/02, 16:15
The rise of India’s global economy has reinforced a perception of English as a language of sexual modernity within the expanding middle classes. My talk explores this perception in the Hindi-English joking routines of urban youth in Delhi during the first decade of the new millennium. Their jokes feature the longstanding ethnic figure of the Sardarji as circulating in modernity but lacking the English competence to understand modernity’s sexual semiotics. Although the humor supports a middle class narrative of progress that temporalizes urban, English-speaking, and ethnically unmarked subjectivities as superior, the lesbian and transmasculine youth who participate in these routines—still criminalized under Section 377 when this fieldwork was conducted—shift this narrative by positioning sexual knowledge, and the queer subjects who have it, at modernity’s forefront. My analysis reveals how sexual modernity, here viewed as constituted in everyday interaction through competing configurations of time, space, and personhood, relies on normativity even while defining itself against it.