Sexual States: Governance and the Struggle over the Antisodomy Law in India
Governing Sexuality, Constituting States
Serving as an introduction, the chapter examines the conceptual and ethnographic foundations of the book. Locating mobilization against the antisodomy law amid ongoing histories of state-oriented struggles, the chapter presents the significance of this case in shifting the theoretical ground for understanding states, sexuality, and governance. Chronicling fieldwork in state sites and with proponents and opponents of the campaign against the antisodomy law, it demystifies the state. Tending to the subjective, iterative, and pedestrian aspects of governance, the discussion lays the groundwork for showing sexuality’s constitutive effects on the state, contributing to its illusions—as monolithic, rational, enduring, “there.” Advancing the conceptual framework of the sexual state, the introduction argues that states are partly constituted by the mandate to contain sexuality’s putative threats to the social order; regulating sexuality helps assert and expand the reach of governance; states are subjective assemblages, whose practices, discourses, agencies, and institutions are permeated by the imperatives of sexuality; marginalized groups seeking redress from states become implicated in upholding them. A critical appraisal of the sexual state reveals that at issue is not one law, one iteration of sexuality, or one sexual subject. Making the cases that sexual states pertain as much at the regional as the national level, the chapter offers a substantial discussion of the shutting down of dance bars by the government of the state of Maharashtra.