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Accepted Paper:

Mapping New Delhi with the hijras, a 'third' gender community in India  


Ina Goel (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

This paper shows how using participatory community maps enable in experiencing the 'urbanness' of a city (New Delhi, India) through the sociality and practices of precarious networks of queer minorities (Hijras, a 'third' gender community).

Paper long abstract:

Distinct from transgender and intersex identities, hijras, a 'third' gender community that is mostly physically castrated, occupy a unique and contradictory place in India. Hindu mythology deifies them, and British colonists demonized them. Caught between precarious webs of cultural stereotyping and postcolonial projects of biopolitical ordering, the hijra community typically live by seeking voluntary donations in exchange for blessing, performing at weddings and stag parties, begging, and engaging in sex work. Existing within ambiguous kinship networks governed by internal councils requiring patronage of senior gurus, hijras undergo mandatory apprenticeship to a symbolic 'house' society providing access to commune life. There is a division of territories between different hijra communes that is crucial in determining hijra livelihoods and their spaces of work in New Delhi - be it work done as ritual workers or sex workers. During fieldwork, by employing innovative tools of participatory research methods, mapping exercises with members from the hijra community revealed many aspects of their geographic exclusion, mostly through their vernacular spatial knowledge. This paper discusses those maps and shows how using participatory community maps enables in experiencing the 'urbanness' of a city, through the sociality and practices of precarious networks of queer minorities in India.

Panel MA02
Scaling the map: Contemporary theoretical and methological innovations in participatory cartographic production