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Racial Encounters: Queer Affiliations in Black and South Asian Diasporas

  • Author(s): Kini, Ashvin Rathnanand
  • Advisor(s): Lowe, Lisa;
  • Streeby, Shelley
  • et al.

Racial Encounters: Queer Affiliations in Black and South Asian Diasporas examines diasporic Black and South Asian cultural production to chart the shifting politics of race, gender, and sexuality in British and U.S. imperial projects. I argue that diasporic Black and South Asian cultural production together comprise an important body of work that collectively archives histories of British colonialism in South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom, and the post-World War II ascendance of U.S.-led global capitalist imperialism. Drawing from the multiple itineraries of the cultural texts themselves, the project traverses a series of historical contexts and geographic locations, including the legacies of African slavery and Indian indenture in postcolonial Trinidad, anticolonial movements in British East Africa, Black British identity formations in Thatcher-era Great Britain, and multicultural discourses in the post-9/11 United States. In each of these contexts, South Asian and Black diasporic subjects are variously positioned in relation to each other in a network of possible configurations: as colonized subjects of empire with differentiated access to the conditions of life and freedom; as workers in racial and sexual divisions of labor; as political actors in anticolonial and anti-racist movements; as partners in various kinds of intimacies; as postcolonial immigrants and racialized minorities. Through readings of an array of 20th and 21st century literary, cinematic, cultural, and historical artifacts, this dissertation investigates how the relational positioning of Black and South Asian diasporic formations expresses the dominant logics of Anglo-American empire, and also reveals the possibilities and limitations of multiracial, anti-imperial solidarities. Employing a queer feminist analytic to foreground the intersectional workings of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nation, I read the body of texts assembled in here as an archive of, on the one hand, the differential locations of Black and South Asian diasporic formations under imperialism, and on the other, critically resistant cultural and political practices, including forms of diasporic memory-making and queer feminist modes of affiliation and coalition that refuse the comforts of solidarities forged through analogy and equivalence.

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