Brian Horton: Shimmers of the Fabulous

Shimmers of the Fabulous: Intimate Touch and Public Sex in Queer and Trans Bombay

In Bombay’s cruising parks, gay parties, pride events, and virtual spaces—what I call queer sexpublics—queer sex, touch, and intimacy flourish. Though queer and trans people perpetually negotiate risk and rejection in search of love, sex and intimacy, queer sexpublics enable practices that allow them to both endure as well as play with state and social violences. Drawing from 28 months of fieldwork conducted in queer and trans spaces in Bombay, between 2013 and 2019, this talk asks: How might queer and trans lives be lived outside of and against the reaches of cultural intelligibility and legal and social recognition? And how might queer studies and anthropology engage this abundance of life in the face of violence, risk, and erasure as a means of recognizing minoritarian lives not just in the moments when they are in crisis, but also when they brim with unbridled possibilities? In thinking with my interlocutors’ desires to touch and be touched, I examine queer life not just through premature foreclosures or violence, but also through creative practices that seek to extend life and its immanent possibilities.

Brian A. Horton’s (Ph.D., Brown University 2019) research and teaching broadly focus on sexual, gender, and racial minority subjects (in India and the US) and the social worlds that they build at the interstices of recognition and discrimination. Horton’s writing has appeared in Sexualities; South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies; QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking; POLAR; and the edited volume Queer Nightlife (Michigan Press). During the 2022 -2023 academic year, Brian is on fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and working on his first book manuscript.

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