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Three Hundred and Seventy Seven Ways of Being – Sexualness of the Citizen in India



The High Court of Delhi recently declared that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial anti-sodomy law that effectively criminalised homosexuality, violates rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. This has been the first juridical recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender folk as citizens and also the first time that the juridical subject has been ascribed a “sexuality”. “Sexuality”, in other words, has been identified as an aspect of personhood, the “self” that the subject refers to. And yet, same-sex desire in India is not contained within discrete bodies, much less so within bodies presumed in bio-medical or juridical discourses as “sexuality types”. This recognition lies at the centre of the Queer movement which made the ascription of sexuality to the juridical subject in the first place. Based on ethnographic fieldwork related to the litigation, this paper argues that the juridical register requires demands for rights to articulate in terms of subjectivity and personhood, and examines the ways in which this disjuncture came to be managed by the movement. The paper examines theoretical approaches to subjectivity and argues for a conceptual distinction between the idea of the “subject” and the “self”. Subjectivity, it is argued, is better understood in terms of forms of (legal) legibility, bringing our focus onto the political-economic, historical and cultural conditions under which these forms come to be performed as embodiments-in-the-world.