A couple of years ago, Gayatri Reddy published a pathbreaking study of hijras in south India. Yoda Press have brought out a South-Asia edition of this book, With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra identity in South India.
With Respect to Sex offers a provocative account of sexual and social difference in India. Hijras are the "third sex" of India: individuals who occupy a unique, liminal space between male and female, sacred and profane. In brief, Hijras are men who sacrifice their genitalia to a goddess in return for the power to confer fertility on newlyweds and newborn children, a ritual role they are respected for, at the same time as they are stigmatized for their ambiguous sexuality.
This is an important, intimate, rich and eminently readable ethnography in which Gayatri Reddy creates a portrait of a community of hijras in Hyderabad that suggests that one cannot see hijras simply through the lens of gender and sexual difference because that is not how hijras understand themselves. Tracing their presence from an era of Hyderabadi royal patronage to the shifting social and cultural landscapes of modernity and nationalism and finally to contemporary neo-liberalism, Reddy shows the ever-changing, complicated and multi-faceted matrix of class, caste, religious, and regional identities and practices that underlie hijra understandings of both their identity and their difference. At stake, she says, are questions of nationalism, citizenship, identity, religion, class, sex, and economics.
By focusing on the hijra community, Gayatri Reddy sheds new light on Indian society and the intricate negotiations of identity across various domains of everyday life. Further, by reframing hijra identity through the local economy of respect, this ethnography highlights the complex relationships among local and global, sexual and moral, economies.
In our Gender Studies section, Rs 395. Paperback. ISBN: 978-81-903634-6-4. We are particularly pleased with the cover of the book... from scholarswithoutborders.in/design!