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Negotiating the Queer and the Politics of Sexualities in Urban Spaces: Sanitized Spaces, Vocality, Display and Visibility in Kolkata City

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Urban Spaces and Gender in Asia

Part of the book series: Sustainable Development Goals Series ((SDGS))

Abstract

This chapter focuses on Kolkata city as a case study to question the discourse on gender sensitivity and model urban planning. The research looks at the Gender Turn and at the presence, visibility and vocality around the ambivalent sexualities across urban spaces and the public sphere, both real and virtual. It begins with an analysis of government, legislative, historical documents and the broader Indian literature, and their interpretation of the larger spectrum of sexualities, before delving into the case of rapidly urbanizing Kolkata. From the perspective of queer studies, the details of how different urban spaces such as cinemas, parks and the virtual sphere negotiate, restrict or produce queer spaces, and how this transforms the visibility and vocality for the ambivalent sexualities in the city of Kolkata. The chapter concludes on the implication for social inclusivity at the city level, and social empowerment at the broader level.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Mamata Banerjee’s Urban Renewal initiatives and drives are distinct in the marked emphasis on colour coding and lighting and beautifying parks and public spaces. This urban renewal drive is different from the New Delhi manufactured infrastructural urban programmes such as the JNNURM (2005–2014); AMRUT (2015 onwards). For details see, JNNURM was brainchild of the Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation. See, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission: Overview (Ministry of Urban Development, GOI) [available at http://jnnurm.nic.in/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/PMSpeechOverviewE.pdf retrieved on 10 April 2014]. For details about AMRUT Mission see, http://amrut.gov.in/writereaddata/The%20Mission.pdf; AMRUT for state of West Bengal http://amrut.gov.in/writereaddata/oms/West%20Begal.pdf retrieved on 29 November 2017.

  2. 2.

    Queer characters have always been projected as deviant, comic, non-serious characters in the imageries projected for mass consumption by Hindi Cinema (Bollywood), for instance, Raja Hindustani (1996, Dir. Dharmesh Darshan), Dostana (2008, Dir. Tarun Mansukhani) etc. Of late Queer characters have been injected as characters to weave dramatic character changes or role-plays among the main protagonists in Bollywood cinema, for instance, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. (2007, Dir. Reema Kagti), Page3 (2005, Dir. Madhur Bhandharkar), Fashion (2008 Dir. Madhur Bhandharkar), etc. Though stereotypical in treatment the affect of such imageries in media is that the Queer has entered into the hushed conversations about/surrounding the sexually ambivalent. Cutting across regional variations, and age divides the Queer has become topical in its own way especially in the realms of Web-series in India (ASC).

  3. 3.

    I prefer to use the word ‘poses’ in place of the more convenient and acceptable ‘places’ for the simple reason that ‘to place’ requires a certain amount stability or degree of comfortness to the environment that may be highly alien, unwelcoming or highly welcoming. Contrarily ‘to pose’ does not necessarily need to be qualified by the comfort factor and ‘to pose’ is limited by time factor that is ‘one does not pose for a life time or permanently’ (ASC).

  4. 4.

    Amra Odbhuth café-collective takes its name from a well known Rabindra Sangeet Amra Odbhuth that celebrates the energy and uniqueness of brave new generation. Nandini Moitra, an activist along with her partner Upasana Agarwal, a student of Jadavpur University are the minds behind this ‘Queer space’ in South Kolkata.

  5. 5.

    Through such events the community is seen, and heard. Such spaces offer the ‘Queer’ communities a sort democratic space of visibility and vocality—‘where they can be what they want or wish/aspire to be’ (ASC).

  6. 6.

    In 2016 the Supreme Court of India had ordered all cinemas to play the national anthem before a film ‘for the love of the motherland’ in the spirit of Article 51A of the Indian Constitution and fostering respect for the national flag and the national anthem (Record Proceeding of the Supreme Court. Available at http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/pdf/cir/2016-11-30_1480502585.pdf; also see, Record Proceeding of the Supreme Court. Available at http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/pdf/cir/2017-02-14_1487071785.pdf retrieved on 22 November 2017). The playing of the national anthem also hurled more debates on whether to stand or not, and what about those on wheel chairs etc. For a similar discussion on performing the national imaginary see, Nilanjana Mukherjee. ‘Spectacular India: Performing the National Imaginary’. JSL: Journal of the School of Language, Literature, and Culture Studies. Autumn: 46–58 New Delhi: JNU. 2006.

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Acknowledgements

The author acknowledges and thanks Netaji Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata and the Government of West Bengal in its Higher Education Department for the Faculty Research Grant 2017 received to conduct this study. Without the financial and the logistic support this study would have remained largely difficult.

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Chakraborty, A.S. (2020). Negotiating the Queer and the Politics of Sexualities in Urban Spaces: Sanitized Spaces, Vocality, Display and Visibility in Kolkata City. In: Joshi, D., Brassard, C. (eds) Urban Spaces and Gender in Asia. Sustainable Development Goals Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-36494-6_7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-36494-6_7

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