Center for the Study of Law and Culture Fellow 2003-2004
My research project will examine different notions of global community and citizenship, examining in particular the obstacles to and opportunities for common global sexual identities to emerge in the future. Obstacles to the emergence of such global sexual identities include a host of differences between “homosexuals” around the globe—differences which concern self-identification, social position, and sexual practices. However, such diversity is found amid other global communities as well—e.g. the global Muslim community (if one may call it that), the global feminist community—while nonetheless not inhibiting the development of a certain sort of shared consciousness and shared political awareness in these communities. One might wonder, then, what is the nature of this “sharing,” how does it develop, what are its components, and what are its limits?
More practically, my research aims to highlight how international human rights organizations that work on important issues concerning sexuality and sexual “minorities” may benefit from the experiences of these other global communities. As international human rights organizations have begun to more seriously address issues related to sexual liberty and the rights of sexual minorities, these organizations have often faced difficult choices about how best to advocate for sexual communities that exhibit a high degree of internal sexual, cultural, and political plurality. My research project will thus also consider how current legal reform efforts assume or encourage particular understandings of human sexual identity.
My current research is inspired by previous work I have done concerning Islamic law and Muslim identity in South Asia, women’s rights in the global context, and gay and lesbian rights in the U.S. context. However, I am now keen to incorporate my interest in and expertise on these issues with other legal and political issues concerning sexuality, citizenship, and cosmopolitanism. Thus, as part of my interdisciplinary research, I plan to explore some parallels that exist between religious and sexual communities concerning the legal and cultural prerequisites of group membership/citizenship, and also issues related to group orthodoxy, heterodoxy, reform, and radicalism.
Of additional interest is how different nationalist ideologies affect all of the above and, in this respect, I plan to make good use of the extensive time I have spent in Pakistan, India, and the U.S. All three countries exist in political and cultural tension with each other, and all have developed nationalist ideologies that incorporate sexualized ideas about their “others.” This reality is one that international human rights organizations working on issues of sexuality must confront, and I hope with my research to point to some ways by which these organizations may more successfully address the different potential legal and cultural pitfalls that they are bound to come across when discussing sexuality in a global manner.