Department Research Seminar, Wednesday 29 September 2021

Department of History

Event details

Wednesday 29 September 2021
Online event
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About this event

Wednesday 29 September 2021, 13:00

Unsettling the Family: Archives, Relationships and Histories

Prof Jessica Hinchy (Nanyang Technological University)

How can historians unsettle the family by showing the historical variability and complexity of relationships and households? How can this unsettling project proceed, when efforts to fix and settle the family and render relationships legible shaped the historical production of archives? In this talk, I engage with these questions in the context of South Asia, by examining the archiving of Hijras’ relationships in the nineteenth century. Hijras are often performers and members of discipleship lineages who embody forms of femininity, sometimes along with aspects of masculinity. The late nineteenth century saw a colonial project to eliminate Hijras, which was backed by certain elite Indian men, resulting in substantial state records on Hijra households. This archive raises questions about how Hijras’ relationships have been rendered legible in the past and in the present. In this talk, I connect my research on Hijra households to wider South Asian histories of the family and seek to extend studies that have shown capacious histories of relatedness. I suggest that a focus on the politics of conjugality in the nineteenth century has often obscured the historical entanglements of multiple forms of kinship with discipleship, service, slavery, patronage, friendship and a range of other ties. Moreover, in examining households and relationships, we need to grapple with the historical variability of gender, beyond binary conceptualisations of gender.

Jessica Hinchy is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She researches the history of gender, sexuality, households and family in colonial north India. In 2019, Cambridge University Press published her first monograph, Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India: The Hijra, c. 1850-1900. Her research has also appeared in Modern Asian Studies, Gender & History and Asian Studies Review, among other journals

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