Stories as capacious objects : narratives of belonging in LGBT community in Chennai, India




Aniruddhan Vasudevan

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This report grows out of my observations and fieldwork notes made in the summer of 2014 in Chennai, India. It argues that when faced with conflicting pulls, varied levels of visibility and state recognition, and multiple axes of privileges, disenfranchisement and suffering, some members of the LGBT community in Chennai emphasized the importance of an additional set of implicit criteria for what constitutes solidarity: showing up; doing the work; making a timely gesture of support or help; being present in a moment of crisis; having shared experiences of fun, outrage, suffering, etc. They used narratives to emphasize friendships and longevity of associations across sexual orientation, gender identity, class, caste, etc., as a way to ameliorate the anxieties created by the questioning of solidarities. My claim is not that such a focus on relationships across social divides directly challenges or carries the potential to challenge larger social orders of gender, class, or caste in a systematic way. My desire, instead, is to focus on the very urge felt by actors involved to ameliorate through narratives the questioning of the legitimacy of the idea of a community. My aim has been to understand what attitudes to relationships and solidarities and what kinds of connections, affect, and slantedness towards one another these exercises reveal.



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