Majestic presence : narrating the transgender self in 21st-century Tamiḻakam
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The purpose of this dissertation is to document the emergence of a new identity of Tamil transgender women as articulated by transgender women themselves through works of autobiographies (Revathi’s Veḷḷai mōḻi and Living Smile Vidya’s Nān Vityā), fiction (Priya Babu’s novel Mūṉṟām pāliṉ mukam), or scholarship (Priya Babu’s ethnography of her community Aravāṇikaḷ, camūka varaiviyal). I pay special attention to how these women articulate their selfhood and the identity of their community in reaction to the specificities of the South Indian context (association with religious festivals such as the Aravaṉ festival in Koovagam, and other transgender phenomena in the Indian subcontinent). Self-narration, especially for stigmatized people and communities is inextricably linked to overcoming traumatic experiences, and for asserting new identities. Speaking and writing about one’s trauma can be a powerful force for transforming pain and loss into political action, and studying it can help us understand how trauma creates new possibilities of community and public culture that is as attentive to shame and alienation as it is to pride and solidarity. Therefore, I focus on trauma and stigma, as expressed in the aforementioned works, as vehicles for creating unique public cultures and artistic subjectivity.