Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
The Construction and Use of Muslim Stories and Histories among Trans Activists in Lucknow

My proposed dissertation research project will address the ways in which Muslims participating in the recent but growing surge of transgender activism in Lucknow navigate their relationship to Islam and particularly their construction and use of Muslim stories and histories in the course of activism. I will address questions regarding the impact of Indian secularism as well as rising right-wing Hinduism on how Muslims both inside and outside of trans activism perceive the relationship between Islam and trans activism. Using a combination of interviews and participant observation, I will begin with the Awadh Pride Lucknow group, the main LGBTQ activism group in Lucknow, as well as conducting interviews with the local Muslim community through attendance at festivals and events. My research contributes to the growing conversation between religious studies and trans studies. In bringing these two fields together, and in engaging with conversation partners in Islamic studies, secularism studies, and anthropology, I emphasize their shared theoretical frameworks of performativity and the social constructedness of, respectively, religion and gender. The relationship between queer activism and the Muslim community in India remains underexplored and trans activism has tended to remain focused on Hinduism or secularism. Prominent trans activists draw on Hindu stories to support their activism, but in a country with a sizable Muslim minority it is important for the study of LGBTQ rights movements to also develop an understanding of the relationship between queer activists and Islam. Lucknow's position as a center of Hindu and Muslim culture presents an ideal environment for exploring the impact of religion on trans activism.