This article revisits the Marxist anticolonial feminist writings of Urdu author Ismat Chughtai through a materialist exploration into how the female body—with its erotic curvatures and grotesque protuberances, its sticky and viscous textures and fluids—becomes the focalized object of what the author terms the erotics of disgust. Chughtai is perhaps most famous for her being tried for obscenity in 1942 for her most famous short story, “The Quilt” (“Lihaaf”), which narrates a young girl’s encounter with the erotic relationship of a middle-class Muslim woman and her female servant. As Chughtai herself recounts, however, she was acquitted because the prosecution could never point to the exact words that were to be considered obscene. The author argues that we read Chughtai’s extraordinary inquiries into the imbrication of desire and disgust as the visceral sites of gender discipline, as the question of the “modern” Muslim female citizen subject hangs in the balance of an emergent Indian nationhood. The author offers a queer feminist critique of the traditional phenomenology of disgust by analyzing the codes of erotic texture produced out of histories of colonial hygiene and bourgeois sexual discipline in late colonial India.

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