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Panel 769: Sacred and Sexual: Sunday 12-1:15

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    Indrani Mitra

    <p align=”center”><b>The Sacred and the Sexual in South Asian Literatures</b></p>
    The papers presented on this panel interrogate gender and the constructions of sexuality in relation to one or more of the religious traditions of South Asia, and their local, regional, historically varied expressions. I envision this panel as a response to the needs of a truly secular culture where serious engagement of religious traditions is the minimum first step to addressing patriarchal and other forms of violence in the name of faith.

    <b>CHAIR</b>: <b>Dr. Indrani Mitra</b> (Mount St. Mary’s University), Chair SALL.


    <b>Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja </b>(University of North Texas)

    “Islam: The Rights of Women and the Patriarchal Readings”

    In 1898 Maulana Mumtaz Ali, a leading Muslim scholar in India, published a book entitled Haqooq-e-Niswan [The Rights of Women], a book that refuted all claims to gender inequality within the Muslim orthodoxy. This text, however, has been completely suppressed in the current interpretation of the sharia in Pakistan. Treating this text as “buried knowledge” (a la Foucault), this paper aims to foreground the importance of retrieving and reintroducing this work to challenge the patriarchal interpretations of gender roles in Islam.


    <b>Dr. Sukanya Banerjee </b>(University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)<b></b>

    “Loyalty, Polygamy, and the Conjugal Modern”


    By seeking to unravel the ineluctable entwining of the religious with the secular, this paper considers the ways in which religion and sexuality intersect in late nineteenth century framings of the secular modern in India. More specifically, it traces how demarcations of religious identity in the late nineteenth century were modeled along the register of sexuality in 1870s-1880s Bengal.  Taking into account the prevalent interest in questions of sexuality as symptomatic of the perceived impetus to a secular modernity, I focus on the ways in which monogamous sexuality was propagated as a “modern Hindu ideal” in ways that cast the Muslim male as the embodiment of the non-modern.  In analyzing the debates around the topic of polygamy in 1870’s Bengal, I draw from contemporary newspaper reports, periodical literature for and by women (in both Bengali and English), as well as the fiction and essays of Bankimchandra Chatterjee, among others.  Interestingly, just as in the sati debates from the earlier decades of the century, it is the<i> shastras</i>, Hindu religious texts, that are invoked to marshal evidence, in this case against polygamy.



    Dr. Rahul K. Gairola (Seattle University and University of Washington, Bothell)

    <b> </b>

    Secular Sexualities:  Material Manifestations of the Sacred and Articulations of Resistance in Shyam Selvadurai’s <i>Funny Boy</i>

    Sri-Lankan Canadian novelist Shyam Selvadurai’s <i>Funny Boy</i> introduces readers to Arjie, a sexually-transgressive young man engulfed by a heteronormative family and the troubled landscape of civil war-torn Colombo, Sri Lanka.  This violence between the Buddhist Sinhalese and the Hindu Tamils reflects the violence of the heteronormative and the queer in the novel, and acts as a catalyst for driving the narrative.   Lacking queer social outlets that are more commonly available in the West, Arjie is forced to negotiate his burgeoning queer agency in the domestic space of the home and the institutionalized space of the private school.  I read Arjie as the young Sri Lankan Canadian narrator of <i>Funny Boy</i> who re-appropriates and subverts the very ideological spaces of normative developments, namely the interpellative spaces of religion including the home, school, and nation.


    <b>RESPONDENT</b>: <b>Dr. John Hawley</b> (University of Santa Clara, CA)


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