Academic journal article Trames

Anthropological and Ethnographic Elements in Indian Parallel Films: A Study of Homophobia in Indian Society

Academic journal article Trames

Anthropological and Ethnographic Elements in Indian Parallel Films: A Study of Homophobia in Indian Society

Article excerpt

Abstract. The paper attempts to study the presence of homophobia prevalent in Indian society and its representation onscreen through parallel films. It also studies the relevance of these films, which are comparable to ethnographic films in terms of selection of their content and the intent of the filmmakers, in attempting to affect a change in the society for the betterment of minority groups and victims. While doing so, the parallel Indian film Aligarh has been taken as a case study which is based on the life and mysterious death of Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras. The public uproar and unofficial ban and violence against the film during its release provides us with useful anthropological insight into the mindset of a large number of people who resort to violence in the face of change from the accepted and widespread societal norms.

Keywords: gender roles, homosexuality, morals, culture, derogatory caricatures, censorship, societal pressure

1. Introduction

In few words, gender is an analytical concept that promotes the understanding of diverse phenomena from different fields in the context of human sciences (Madureira 2007). But in many societies across the world, especially where people are averse to same-sex relations, gender is increasingly emerging as a construct forced upon an individual by the norms of the society. The dimorphism found among species has spawned and reinforced the traditional notion of sexes by proposing and strengthening the roles attributed to sexes. So strong has been the identification of the male and female attributes with the biological gender that the alternative sexualities have been completely ignored or looked at with derision throughout history. Homophobia or the fear of relations between individuals of the same sex stems from a strong identification with the accepted gender roles in a world where any deviation from convention is looked at with suspicion and derision. Only recently has the world opened to the rights of LGBTQ community and that too in fits and starts. Today, gender is not just the set of physical attributes one was born with, but how one feels inside. In the present times studies on gender are garnering a lot of interest, as evident from the numerous works focusing on this area. In opposition to abstract conceptions about human beings, gender and sexuality studies stress the centrality of culture and power in the processes of construction of multiple social identities (Madureira 2007).

Gender, in its early definitions meant the biological attributes which identified a person as male or female. The notion of gender by birth and psycho-social conditioning of individual in keeping with the accepted gender roles meant that an individual had to fit in within the traits visualized by the society as belonging to the male or female sex. There was no question of alternate sexualities and no space for people who felt trapped within the biological shell which they were not comfortable with. The association of behavioral attributes with the physical gender resulted in gender being seen as a synthesis of the mental and physical being and created fixed patterns of accepted gender roles. Over time they have become integral to our existence and any deviance from this norm unsettles us. Till a few decades ago, individuals had no choice but to struggle to fit in with their biological gender. Homosexuality had been a diagnostic category in the DSM since the manual's first edition in 1952, and its classification as a disease was rooted in a nineteenth century medical model (Bayer 1987, Chauncey 1982-1983). The people with alternate sexualities were considered as being mentally sick and were considered sociopaths for a long time.

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association Board of Directors voted to remove homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), declaring that a same-sex orientation is not inherently associated with psychopathology (Bayer 1987, Minton 2002). …

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