Queer Diasporic Practice of a Muslim Traveler: Syed Mujtaba Ali’s Chacha Kahini

  • Kris ManjapraEmail author
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 53)


I do not know if Syed Mujtaba Ali identified as queer, and the question itself is anachronistic to my study. Here, my use of “queer” extends beyond contemporary identity categories, and refers to a broad spectrum of transgressive orientations vis-à-vis patriarchy and nationalism. Queer, in this essay, is an epistemological and social category, not a personal one. Today, it is important to study in queer ways because Western and postcolonial nations and nationalisms, such as in the USA, on one hand, and in India, on the other, compulsively seek to straighten out “the Muslim” through forceful applications of surveillance, interrogation, incarceration, and elimination. The abjection of the Muslim, as a national figure, is used to distribute and encode majoritarian national sentiment and identity (Berlant 1993; Mamdani 2004; Jasbir Puar 2007). The figure of the Muslim is often interpellated in popular media, but also in contemporary anthropological and area studies writings, as a subject locked within patriarchy, and within patrilines of tradition and descent: the Hadrami, the Ashraf, and Arab-centric authenticity. These regnant genealogies of Muslimness necessarily present Muslims as agonistically positioned in racist and caste-ist conceptions of modernity. The “terrorist”, invented by the American, European, and postcolonial Indian security states over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and by Western and Hindutva patriarchies and nationalisms, overdetermines discussions about Islamic cultures and peoples. The Muslim is erected as a transnational fantastic Other (Asad 2003, 2007). And the figure of the Muslim serves to represent a “bad patriarchy” that is counterposed to the supposedly good Christian, or caste Hindu, patriarchy of modern Western and Indian security states, respectively. We might say that at the core of colonial and neo-colonial fantasies of the Muslim is a displacement and mediation of authoritarian heteronationalism’s abject view of itself.



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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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