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One narrative ritual continues to inaugurate most historiographical projects of sexuality: the problem-event, the detail, the legal case—in other words, an archival trace that compresses or even obfuscates historical content, legible only through reconstructive hermeneutics. For scholars working at the interstices of sexuality and subalternity, the problem event could offer glimpses of a lost history, the scarcity of historical evidence countered by the hermeneutical performance of plenitude as you mine the archival trace for the promise of historical precedence and futurity. Instead, chapter 2 summons a paradoxical labor for histories of sexuality in South Asia: to read the archival exemplar precisely for what it cannot hold. There is no stabilizing recuperation of historical detail on offer here; rather, there is an exhortation to think the exemplar of sexuality as an absorbing and abundant discursive presence, reassembled through our every act of reading. Bypassing the seductive heroics of recuperative historiography, the chapter offers a different pathway to historical presence.

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