This article examines the transition ritual (nirvanam) in a specific community of thirunangais, a regional transfeminine community characterized by ritual practices of worship and labor, to inquire into forms of religious worlding and subject- formation that take place at the margins of dominant systems of religion, citizenship, and gender. Unlike those who identify exclusively with the category of transgender, thirunangais’ formations of self and subjecthood draw not only from modern and secular discourses such as those of human rights and identity politics but also from religious discourses and practices. These involve embodied experiences of sacrifice and pain that are considered “premodern” and abject even within hegemonic norms of religion in India. Drawing from how thirunangai narratives of self construct the nirvanam as an encompassing assemblage of both ritual observances and more medicalized practices of sex reassignment, the article looks at how thirunangais consistently queer modern prescriptions of the relationship among political, private, and religious spheres. What can thirunangais tell us about those bodies, practices, and discourses that are seen as inimical to the constitution of the modern religious subject in postcolonial contexts?

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