Niharika Banerjea

Niharika Banerjea is Associate Professor of Sociology at the School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi. Her research and teaching interests and commitments are in the areas of transnational feminisms, queer lives and activisms, social theory, and collaborative ethnographies.
Working across and drawing from sociology, social anthropology and geographies of sexualities, Niharika writes about gendered institutions, queer-feminist collective imaginaries, notions of community, and queer politics in the context of contemporary India.

Niharika is also associated with Sappho for Equality, the activist forum working to address socio-political marginalization of lesbian, bisexual women and transmen in eastern India. She identifies as an academic-activist, as a way to critically address familiar binaries between academia and activism - in classrooms, in activist spaces, and in writing practices. Across all these sites, along with her co-thinkers, co-writers and co-workers, Niharika tries to make "theory" relevant to interrogate everyday hegemonic relations, as well as interrogate self-referential understandings of "lived experiences". At the same time, she invests in bringing the complexes of lived experiences to interrogate familiar theoretical endeavours.
Niharika also identifies as queer, and this identification includes an assemblage of socio-political histories of varied journeys, rather than as an already arrived moment.

Niharika’s current notable work includes, a co-edited anthology of Friendship as Social Justice Activism: Critical Solidarities in a Global Perspective (University of Chicago Press, distributed by Seagull Books, 2018) and an ongoing book manuscript with Professor Kath Browne, University of Maynooth, on Making Liveable Lives: Rethinking Social Exclusion. Along with these, Niharika is currently involved in a co-edited volume on Lesbian Feminisms and a book manuscript on Lesbian Spaces and Community Making in Eastern India.

Liveability as a Decolonial Option through Collaborative Research and Activisms

Keynote - Friday, 14.09. 11:00-12:00 ZHG 011

I will discuss the question of liveability as a decolonial option, through collaborative research and activisms, both of which are central to my work and life. Queer and queer-feminist colonial subjects such as me are making their liveabilities within and through much contested binaries of modernity/tradition, civilized/uncivilized, and forward/backward. I attempt to delink from such standardized binaries through my collaborative research project around what makes life liveable for LGBTQ people across India and the UK. To this end, I argue that thinking through liveability on the terrain of queer lives brings into view everyday and often ordinary life worlds, which are otherwise hidden or normalized within juridico-political renderings of queer lives and activisms. Juridico-political frames of recognition, based on an inclusion/exclusion trope, often falls short of addressing the vulnerabilities of queer bodies residing in nations that do have rights, and forecloses an understanding of the nuanced and active agentic lives of those in nations without rights. Liveability’s decolonial potential lies in its ability to focus on the lives of those who are otherwise juridically unintelligible and folded into queerphobic and xenophobic renderings of nationalist discourses. At the same time, in places where juridical recognition is guaranteed, liveability can facilitate a discussion about the forms of living that are also constitutive of such recognition, and hence inside-outside the realms of legal rationality. Asking critical questions through the lens of liveability pushes us to re-think uninterrogated socio-political contexts within which lives either become complacent or struggle to be viable. Liveability also works as a potential connector of lives across sites of differential precarities and places of colonial difference. Consequently, with a lens of liveability, we can avoid placing nations and by implication, lives in neat narratives of progress and backwardness.

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