Jyoti Puri is Professor of Sociology at Simmons College; her teaching coincides with the fields of sexuality and queer studies, and postcolonial feminist theory. In her new book, Sexual States: Governance and the Struggle against the Antisodomy Law in India, she describes the battle to decriminalize homosexuality in India and unfolds the relationship between sexuality and the state.
What papers/projects are you working on next?
Even as I was analyzing the Indian context in Sexual States, I was interested in the nexus of sexuality and the state as it plays out in the U.S. Therefore, my next project shifts to the U.S., examining the mundane as well as more unusual aspects of this nexus.
Who has influenced you the most? (Current/past researchers?)
The defining influences for me have been feminist postcolonial theory that is attentive to issues of sexuality as well as poststructuralist literature on the state.
Your About Me section for Simmons College states that you find a “transnational and postcolonial approach to be most useful to understanding the interconnections between” sexuality, gender, nationalism, and state. What are the benefits of these approaches?
Being open access, your book is now available to the entire world.
Besides academic experts, who should definitely read it? Why?
PaperHive would like to know if the reader had only 5 minutes, what specific pages or sections should they definitely read to gain insight into your research?
In sum, a critique of the sexual state advances radical appraisals of state, sexuality, and governance. This theoretical turn keeps states in the analytical foreground and demystifies them by drawing attention to the subjective and especially sexualized governance practices, laws, policies, and discourses that help realize them. Analyzing how states are constituted partly by the mandate to contain sexuality’s putative threat to the social order, this stance looks at the ways sexuality easily affects every aspect of the assemblage abbreviated as “the state.” Highlighting the banal as well as multiple iterations of governance actually giving substance to states, it encourages awareness of how race, gender and expression, and social caste and class are implicated in the exertions of power. Not least, this approach underscores that it is not only the nitty-gritties of governing that help produce state-effect but also the quests for sexual reform that (are obligated to) pivot around the state.
The reader could also skip forward to the concluding discussion and read pages 150-to the middle of page 152. The opening paragraph of the conclusion, “Afterlives,” is another of my favorite paragraphs.
Did you encounter any difficulties while working on the book? How did you resolve them?
Nothing specifically, but of course in the process of analyzing and writing–holding together complex ideas and rendering them in a way that would be compelling and accessible. Writing this book was not easy but it has been a truly rewarding process.