Intimate subjects and virtual spaces: rethinking sexuality as a category for intimate ethnographies

2016-10-28T10:14:27Z (GMT) by Rohit Dasgupta Debanuj Dasgupta
Social networking sites and digital technologies have created opportunities for young people in India to establish virtual intimate connections. In this article we analyse the intimate exchanges between young men on two different digital platforms - Facebook and Planet Romeo. An analysis of the intimate virtual exchanges reveals technologies of queer neoliberal subject formation within contemporary India. Queer neoliberal subject formation refers to the emergence of a sexual subject of rights, one that is a consumer-citizen within the Indian free-market economy. The article highlights two kinds of ways in which bodies are being queered within present day India. First, we discuss the case of run-away young men, whose bodies are marked as failure, a kind of ‘delinquent’ subject by an ensemble of state and civil-society formations. The young men are escaping violence from male elders, and poor living conditions in peri-urban Kolkata. Their bodies come to signify a queer figure within neoliberal notions of success and enterprise. Secondly, we interrogate the ways in which homosexuality is an emergent juridico-political category in India. The Supreme Court of India ruling on 11th December 2013, which reinstated the anti-sodomy provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC 377), is the site for the sedimentation of ‘homosexual’ as a subject of legal rights. The homosexual is being presented as a subject of conjugal love. Conjugality is represented as a private good, as the right to consume intimacy within private space. Representation of intimacy and celebration of conjugal love is found through the growth of dating websites in India along with the proliferation of media texts such as memes, poems and illustrative images found online commemorating conjugality. Our ethnographic analysis of the virtual exchanges among runaway young men, and young gay identified men reveal how neoliberal subject formation in India remains incomplete.