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Title: Queering normativity : uncovering the invisible working of norms in South Asian public culture
Author: Luther, J. Daniel
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 6493
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis engages with a Foucaultian concept of power called normativity. It probes the ways in which normativity informs the conception of what is considered 'normal'. It demonstrates how normativity functions to mask its own operation, is internalised by subjects, and is continually reproduced through discourse and in material ways. In seeking to make visible the functioning of normativity — that is to suspend taking for granted the everyday ways in which normativity regulates life and instead to ask why and how it regulates life — it performs a task of queering normativity by querying that which is commonsensical. In order to explore the discursive structuring of normativity in India, and its socio-political mechanisms it engages with South Asian public culture (Gopinath, 2005, pp. 20–28) as an archive. That is a "zone of cultural debate" (Breckenridge and Appadurai, 1995, p. 5) wherein contestation over meaning and the co-optation of culture play out. This thesis will engage with both the sedimentation and the unsettling of normativity through canonical texts such as the novels of Rabindranath Tagore, through popular texts such as Bollywood films, and through texts that fall outside proper objects of literary studies such as parliamentary speech, advertisements, and social media posts. In doing so it follows the logics of a queer archive. That is, it adopts the verb form of the word queer to eschew locating specifically self-identified or even ostensibly 'lesbian' or 'gay' characters in texts. Instead, at its core, it locates actions that are in contradiction to prevalent norms irrespective of specific labels that affix and name identities. It adopts a thematic approach that limits its scope. The themes through which it explores normativity are canon, the home, marriage, and the impact of the former three on non-normative sexual identities. The first three themes trace a broader socio-cultural normativity within which individual lives are always already imagined. The latter closely examines how normativity is replicated even within same-sex contexts under the governing logic of the first three. Furthermore, the last thematic divide is the focal material for the analyses of the continual evolution of normativity in South Asian public culture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral