Every year, the Martha LA McCain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies delivers a public lecture that highlights their work. This year, after postponing her talk last March due to Covid-19, we are honoured to host Sara Shroff for a virtual lecture. This event was held as a Zoom webinar on February 11th 2021. You can view a recording of the talk below or on our Youtube channel.
Between Brown Femininities: Queer Notes on Language, Erotics, and Devotion
This talk uses a series of stories that merge the relationship between femininity, divinity and domesticity. I see these stories as fleshy sites of theorizing, meaning that they open analytic possibilities between disparate sites of lived brown queer femininity, bringing into dialogue the movements between ascetic and aesthetic, sacred and secular, domestic and the “street”, and modesty and promiscuity. As a feminist queer of color living on/through border regimes as a settler, citizen, refugee and migrant, I am interested in the interplay of language, space and spiritual experiments across temporal moments and modes of being. This talk meditates on several contested Urdu and Hindi terms – zenana (women-only space, feminine-soul), hum jins parast (same-sex worship), tawaif (courtersan) randi rona (whore – tears), sakhi (female friend), and kali (Goddess, Divine Mother, dark and black). These mutlivalent and palimpsestic vernaculars were shaped by queer desire, racialized feminities, and divine cosmologies and moved in and between the domestic spaces in which I grew up and later cultivated in a feminist fashion. By working between frames of brownness and femininities, I want to challenge the de facto heterosexual and heteronormative stance we often assign histories of desire, diaspora, and divinity. Returning to questions posed by lesbian/feminist in the 1980’s – Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Kishwar Naheed, Cherri Moraga — I think about how brown femininity required of me to be attentive to overlapping violences and cross vocabularies, mother/lands and mother/tongues, feminist knowledges and sacred matters.
Sara Shroff is the Martha LA McCain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. She holds a PhD in Urban and Public Policy from The New School. As a transnational scholar, her work takes up the mutual constitution and collateral genealogies of race, coloniality, cultural memory, affect, aesthetics and sexuality in contemporary South Asia and its diasporas. Sara’s scholarship cuts across disciplines and includes transnational feminist and queer of color critique; postcolonial and decolonial economics and South Asian public and counterpublic formations. Sara has taught in global studies, economics, and women, gender and sexuality studies at The New School, New York University, and PACE University. She previously worked in education policy, global philanthropy and social finance for over 18 years.