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Title: 'Why vote for a fake kinnar when you can vote for a real one?' : representation and political identity among kinnars in Madhya Pradesh, India
Author: Ung Loh, Jennifer
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines the production of kinnar identity in the context of state politics in Madhya Pradesh. As a subordinate group, living on the margins of history, religion, gendered practice, and the social imagination, kinnars (or hijras) are often represented to and by the public as an impoverished and deviant group, who fail to fit into mainstream society. The election of seven kinnars in the state of Madhya Pradesh between 1999 and 2009 provided an opportunity for kinnars to be represented in a new way to the public, both in Madhya Pradesh and nationally. Their electoral victories and tenures paralleled a wider theme in respect to the entry of previously marginalised individuals into deliberative and legislative bodies, usually of lower-caste status, with the aim of gaining legitimation and formal recognition of their identity. In this thesis, I explore the relationship between representation and the production of kinnar identity in modern India. I analyse how kinnars and their supporters constructed kinnar identity as a viable, political identity, negotiating and narrating a new representation of their idiosyncratic bodies and behaviours. I argue that political participation was not beneficial for kinnar politicians, in the sense that they obtained few, if any, ostensible material or symbolic gains. Moreover, the case of these kinnars' participation raises wider questions regarding marginal identity and recognition by the Indian State. Throughout the thesis, I explore how kinnar identity is located on the margins of various societal arenas and how entry into and representation within central spaces entails a significant negotiation and re-presentation of kinnar identity. I argue that modes of recognition fix individuals within an identity that is intelligible to the Indian State but fail to contain the heterogeneous forms of kinnar identity, forcing kinnars to identify in a particular way in order to be recognised.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available