Living Through Resistance : A Feminist Analysis of Bangladeshi Hijras and Gender Non-Conforming Identity Representation in Media Spaces and the Documentary Films, Call Me Salma (2010) and Are We So Different (2012)
This thesis offers a feminist perspective on the stories and representations of Hijra individuals and gender non-conforming communities in Bangladesh. It considers these stories for how they represent resistance to dominant gender normative discourses and cultural values in Bangladesh, and I explore how they figure both the struggles and survivals of the Hijra community as it straddles belonging and un-belonging at the outskirts of society, literally on the border of Dhaka city, and also as ostracized citizens seeking self-articulation and strategies for assimilation. My thesis will review the social location of Hijras from legal and cultural perspectives; it will consider representations of Hijra via community organizations committed to their well-being; finally, it will consider recent film documentaries, Call Me Salma (2010), directed by Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque, and Are We So Different (2012), directed by Lok Prakash, alongside other print and social media materials. This thesis hopes to inspire conversations across geographic and cultural borders to join transnational feminist conversations about queer and gender non-conforming identities, and it aspires to support activist efforts by all who work on behalf of these marginalized communities in my home country of Bangladesh. I hope my work will provide opportunities for more visibility and address a paradoxical set of cultural contexts that has allowed some legal recognition of Hijras, yet which also continues to reinforce dominant cultural norms that marginalize these communities.