Hijras, Lovers, Brothers
Surviving Sex and Poverty in Rural India
Thinking from Elsewhere
Published by: Fordham University Press
268 pages, 152.00 x 228.00 x 0.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780823294718
- Published: May 2021
Winner, 2021 Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences
Hijras, one of India’s third gendered or trans populations, have been an enduring presence in the South Asian imagination—in myth, in ritual, and in everyday life, often associated in stigmatized forms with begging and sex work. In more recent years hijras have seen a degree of political emergence as a moral presence in Indian electoral politics, and with heightened vulnerability within global health terms as a high-risk population caught within the AIDS epidemic.
Hijras, Lovers, Brothers recounts two years living with a group of hijras in rural India. In this riveting ethnography, Vaibhav Saria reveals not just a group of stigmatized or marginalized others but a way of life composed of laughter, struggles, and desires that trouble how we read queerness, kinship, and the psyche.
Against easy framings of hijras that render them marginalized, Saria shows how hijras makes the normative Indian family possible. The book also shows that particular practices of hijras, such as refusing to use condoms or comply with retroviral regimes, reflect not ignorance, irresponsibility, or illiteracy but rather a specific idiom of erotic asceticism arising in both Hindu and Islamic traditions. This idiom suffuses the densely intertwined registers of erotics, economics, and kinship that inform the everyday lives of hijras and offer a repertoire of self-fashioning beyond the secular horizons of public health or queer theory.
Engrossingly written and full of keen insights, the book moves from the small pleasures of the everyday—laughter, flirting, teasing—to impossible longings, kinship, and economies of property and substance in order to give a fuller account of trans lives and of Indian society today.
Introduction: That Limpid Liquid within Young Men | 1
1 A Prodigious Birth of Love | 25
2 In False Brothers, Evil Awakens | 62
Interlude: Standing at a Slight Angle to the Universe | 100
3 Something Rotten in the State | 106
4 Love May Transform Me | 140
5 I Have Immortal Longings in Me | 179
Acknowledgments | 197
Notes | 201
References | 235
Index | 249
“Hijras, Lovers, Brothers is a gripping ethnography of hijras and their communities. Saria details the intimate, social, and economic structures that determine how hijras craft their lives, whom and where they love, and the losses they grieve. With startling insights, Saria shows how hijras shape and reshape those very experiences. This book will be a touchstone for Indian anthropology, sexuality studies of the global South, queer studies, international public health, transgender and feminist studies, and the comparative anthropology of kinship. An iconoclastic, vivid and deeply meaningful book.” ~Chandan Reddy, University of Washington
“Hijras, Lovers, Brothers offers fresh and important take on a topic that needs exactly that. It contributes not only to the long conversation about the people known, among other labels, as hijras, but to social action, kinship, love, sexuality, pleasure, and trans and queer life. Saria shows how hijras represent a kind of existence that is at once foundation and intervention, a quality of being-among-categories that recurs in South Asian forms of social life and renders unfamiliar globalized critical ideas about how categories work and are worked upon by the social.” ~Sarah Pinto, Tufts University
- Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences