Qurbatein is a non-profit bi-annual publication by the Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality at Ashoka University that aims to bring together scholarly and non-scholarly work on gender, sex and sexuality in South Asia. This publication features a set of colourful, raunchy, serious, bawdy, rigorous, expansive works dedicated to the politics of gender and sexuality. The bi-annual will be released twice a year, and each issue will focus on a specific theme that asks questions about sexuality and its significance for contemporary as well as historical engagements with sex.
Qurbatein will aim at producing South Asian narratives of sexuality in relation to space, time, language, fantasy, cinema, law, food, literature, and politics more broadly. The purpose of this bi-annual is to think about queer engagements from a non-western point of view, and showcase ways in which South Asian landscapes affect desire. In what language does one “come out” in South Asia? Is the metaphor of “coming out” the only one available to us? How does queerness surface in a middle-class family? How does trans* politics alter (or succumb to) identitarian modes of queerness?
The Centre aims to expand conversations about gender and sexuality beyond the realm of academia, and the multiple genres will help foster discussions that are embedded in everyday life. This will also allow us to think about desire through the multiplicity of form, and come to terms with the various modes of storytelling that make up the complex space of sex and sexuality.
In this age of categorised and siloed politics, Qurbatein aims to curate a multiplicity of voices and genres. While the primary language of the publication will be English, we will also accept translations of existing literary work for subsequent publications. After all, the rich cornucopia of South Asian languages adds to the complexity of our desires. We especially urge writers from marginalized communities to send us their stories.
The first issue focuses on the intimacy between cities and desire. The cultural significance of the city often interrupts, enables, and forbids sexualities. The bustling urban neighborhoods, cramped and overflowing bastis, waiting areas of bus stations, red-light zones, religious corners, market places, and other spaces of commerce and everyday life alter and shape our sexual lives.
This issue aims to ask questions related to cities and sexualities, focusing on the complex intersections of geography and desire. Who inhabits the city? Whom does the city desire? What are normative geographies and how do they affect sex and sexuality? Why is the city a space of sexual liberation? Whose stories make up the sexual and urban landscapes of cities?
The second issue of Qurbatein is inspired by the rich histories of role-play that extend across Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra to Bulleh Shah’s poetry to Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Over time, boundaries of gender and sexuality have often been reimagined in the language of royalty. The historic “lords” of Sufi poetry are echoed by current-day drag “kings and queens.” The performance of non-normative sexuality is bolstered by the register of royalty.
This issue aims to think about the frequent intercourse between high and low, normative and marginalised, queen and courtesan, that have marked histories of sexuality around the world. We would like to examine the interface between royalty and sexuality, broadly defined. Is it a drag to be King? What is the role of the body in the performance of sexuality? How does class impact the politics of sexuality? Why do we talk about kings and queens while describing often deeply-marginalised populations and practices?
The third issue of Qurbatein is a call to explore the political, sexual, social, religious and cultural histories of desire that have spanned the Indic subcontinent for centuries. While some desires have been allowed to flourish, some have vanished, while others have been criminalised. Even more, we look to history for radically different purposes – to allow or disallow desires in the present. Some of us seek “role models” in the past, while others seek impediments. How does history become a battleground to prove desirability or its opposite? How far back do we go? How do we write a history of the present? How do we take on board uncomfortable historical ideas that do not fit in with our ideas about ourselves? Do we create sanitised histories of desire, or do we allow desire to sully the historical record?
We are also interested in thinking of history as the production of knowledge; what is the relationship between history and epistemology? Is history a force that lends voice to the voiceless, or does it help in maintaining the status quo? In what ways does desire become a subject for history? The goal of this issue of Qurbatein is to reflect on the idea of desire in relation to history, and to think about what might or might not count as a desirable history.
If you wish to write for us, watch our Instagram space for updates regarding subsequent issues and submission guidelines. For collaborations, write to us at email@example.com