In Unruly Visions Gayatri Gopinath brings queer studies to bear on investigations of diaspora and visuality, tracing the interrelation of affect, archive, region and aesthetics through an examination of a wide range of contemporary queer visual culture. Spanning film, fine art, poetry and photography, these cultural forms—which Gopinath conceptualizes as aesthetic practices of queer diaspora—reveal the intimacies of seemingly disparate histories of (post)colonial dwelling and displacement and are a product of diasporic trajectories.
Countering standard formulations of diaspora that inevitably foreground the nation-state, as well as familiar formulations of queerness that ignore regional gender and sexual formations, Gopinath stages unexpected encounters between works by South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Australian and Latinx artists such as Sheba Chhachhi, Allan deSouza, Tracey Moffat and Akram Zaatari. Unruly Visions shows how their art functions as regional queer archives that express alternative understandings of time, space, and relationality.
The queer optics produced by these visual practices create South-to-South, region-to-region and diaspora-to-region cartographies that profoundly challenge disciplinary and area studies rubrics. Gopinath thereby provides new critical perspectives on settler colonialism, empire, military occupation, racialization and diasporic dislocation as they indelibly mark both bodies and landscapes.
“A tremendous advance over the current scholarship analyzing visuality, affect, and South-to-South queer diasporic artistic expression, Unruly Visions charts new cartographies of diasporic connections that provide a fresh orientation to our understanding of settler colonialism, empire, and racialization. Gayatri Gopinath’s book is a singular achievement that will have a profound impact within queer studies, indigenous and diaspora studies, visual studies, and aesthetics.”
—Nayan Shah, author of Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality, and the Law in the North American West
“A wonderfully detailed examination of queer diasporic films and visual art projects, this book explores how critical regionalism can interrupt conventional conceptions of local/global and metropolis/diaspora distinctions. Gayatri Gopinath's concept of a 'queer cartographic imaginary' resists neat categories and generalizations, offering an eclectic range of case studies—queer diaspora from Kerala and the Middle East, Latinx and U.S. cultures of immigration, and indigeneity.”
—Ann Cvetkovich, author of Depression: A Public Feeling
GAYATRI GOPINATH is Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. She works at the intersections of transnational feminist and queer studies, postcolonial studies and diaspora studies.
Sheba Chhachhi's piece offers an alternative to the visual landscape of Kashmir which, in the popular imagination of people today, is occupied by the ravages of war and countless martyred men. By placing itself as an invitation into a private space that is rarely, if ever, breached by dominant media discourses, this photo-essay highlights the absences in the pictures of carnage that are used to fuel propaganda on both sides of the conflict.
The piece – comprising of a critical essay and a series of personal testimonies which are interspersed with photographs – seeks to bring human figures back into the landscape and give voice to those whose lives have been obscured in the din of a prolonged war. It makes space for the individual in a history of representation that is populated with recurring tropes and warring stereotypes which, Chhachhi argues, depersonalise the Valley and its conflicts. In her work, women are no longer silent victims, they emerge as textured human beings, not only with voices with which to speak, but also with eyes that are wide open. The testimonies have been taken over a period of six years and reflect varying positions, and the interviewees are students and professionals, Muslims and Pandits, teenagers and the aged.
The photographs are extracted from a larger work which was initially presented as a photo-installation by Sheba Chhachhi and Sonia Jabbar. The photo-essay as a whole captures the life and times of women during conflict, including during the attempted implementation of the burqa diktat in the Valley. These individuated women stand out in the frames as they look back at the viewer in more ways than one.
Please note that the photographs contained in this essay have been directly scanned from the printed book due to the non-availability of the originals.
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