Sexual States

Governance and the Struggle over the Antisodomy Law in India

Sexual States

Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies

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Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: February 2016

Author: Jyoti Puri

Asian Studies > South Asia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, LGBTQ Studies

In Sexual States Jyoti Puri tracks the efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in India to show how the regulation of sexuality is fundamentally tied to the creation and enduring existence of the state. Since 2001 activists have attempted to rewrite Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which in addition to outlawing homosexual behavior is often used to prosecute a range of activities and groups that are considered perverse. Having interviewed activists and NGO workers throughout five metropolitan centers, investigated crime statistics and case law, visited various state institutions, and met with the police, Puri found that Section 377 is but one element of how homosexuality is regulated in India. This statute works alongside the large and complex system of laws, practices, policies, and discourses intended to mitigate sexuality's threat to the social order while upholding the state as inevitable, legitimate, and indispensable. By highlighting the various means through which the regulation of sexuality constitutes India's heterogeneous and fragmented "sexual state," Puri provides a conceptual framework to understand the links between sexuality and the state more broadly. 


"[A] knowledge of the myriad ways in which power works helps us to arm ourselves in our fight for social justice, individual rights and democratic freedoms. Puri's book gives us the helpful ammunition we need in our struggle." — Ratnabir Guha, Telegraph India

Sexual States is deftly crafted.… Puri employs multiple methods with aplomb and to excellent effect.”

— Joseph J. Fischel, Journal of the History of Sexuality

"[Puri] not only adds to a growing corpus of literature highlighting the necessity of a theoretical and political alliance in resisting state surveillance and brutality among those persecuted as ethno-religious minorities and those persecuted as gender and sexual minorities; she also draws attention to the Indian context, and by extension post-colonial contexts more broadly, as a theater of knowledge production in its own right, with its own intersecting and divergent histories of governmentality, biopolitics, and, sexuality. This should be considered required reading for any scholars interested in the Indian state, postcoloniality and sexuality studies." — Lars Olav Aaberg, New Books Asia

"Sexual States is an important work in chronicling the history of LGBT struggle against section 377 in India." — Jhuma Sen, Politics & Gender

"Puri’s book is an important addition to the critical sociological literature on sexualities, state, law, and biopolitics, not only for its theoretical sophistication but also for its empirical depth and rich ethnographic insights." — Chaitanya Lakkimsetti, Contemporary Sociology

Sexual States is a well-written book that will be important not only for how it makes us rethink sexual justice in India but also for the transnational framework it provides to understand the intricacies of sexuality, the state, and neoliberal processes.” — Nishant Upadhyay, GLQ

"Sexual States is beautifully written, clearly argued, and carefully researched. Original and compelling, this important book will be of broad interest to those whose work focuses on sexuality and the state, from legal scholars, political scientists, and sociologists to anthropologists, gender and sexuality scholars, and activists."  — Inderpal Grewal, author of Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms

"Reversing the critical commonplace that the state produces sexuality, Jyoti Puri challenges us to think about the ways in which the regulation of sexuality legitimizes the modern Indian state. This fresh, consistently thought-provoking, and often surprising book analyzes key moments, including the controversies around bar girls and the criminalization of homosexuality, to show how the police, the legal apparatus, and the bureaucracy are shaped by the notion of deviant sexuality."  — Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jyoti Puri is Professor of Sociology at Simmons College and the author of Encountering Nationalism.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Part One. Introduction

1. Governing Sexuality, Constituting States  3

2. Engendering Social Problems, Exposing Sexuality's Effects on Biopolitical States  24

Part Two. Sexual Lives of Juridicial Governance

3. State Scripts: Antisodomy Law and the Annals of Law and Law Enforcement  49

4. "Half Truths": Racialization, Habitual Criminals, and the Police  74

Part Three. Opposing Law, Contesting Governance

5. Pivoting toward the State: Phase One of the Struggle against Section 377  101

6. States versus Sexuality: Decriminalizing and Recriminalizing Homosexuality in the Postliberalized Context  126

Afterlives  150

Notes  165

Bibliography  193

Index  211
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Winner, American Sociological Association Section on Sociology of Sexualities 2018 Distinguished Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6043-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6026-1
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