[Reader-list] Rsearch Proposal

sayantoni datta sayantoni at rediffmail.com
Tue Dec 24 12:57:02 IST 2002

To the Sarai Reader List

Sending in the listing on my research proposal for Independent Research fellowship for the reader list again,in case you haven't received it.
Sorry for the inconvenience


"Discovering Sexuality in the media:Amorphous Kaleidoscopic Images"

Most often when we speak of sexual identities we look at different groups in the same, these being the heterosexuals, the homosexuals, the lesbians, the gays, the bisexuals, the transsexuals, the transvestites, the queer, the straight, the "chhakka" the "hijra"....the list is endless, the labels many.

The most difficult and yet the easiest way to understand diversity and put it in a universal framework is the use of labels and language and definitions. Understanding this diversity is even more difficult when each label we use or word we coin helps to identify a difference. Do these differences help us to differentiate a YOU/US as against THEM and create parallel worlds, or do these differences help bridge a gap in understanding various identities in a universal world?

The research looks at shared spaces like the media where different individuals and groups come together, where both social and personal thoughts find expression in a larger domain. In some domains like the internet the actors in the media are much larger consisting of a wider and active public, in others like the newspapers or cinema the audience is larger in terms of numbers than the actor. Mediums like legends and stories of a defined period throw light on context specific and time bound notions. 

Keeping in mind the history of several movements and efforts made by different groups propagating different identities, and keeping in mind historical approaches and efforts made towards the understanding of sexual freedom, and the use of media to express the same, the researcher has proposed to relook at these labels. Are they an easy coinage for inexplicable relationships, or terms opposed to what one may consider the norm ("natural versus unnatural" or "normal versus abnormal"), are they what they were yesterday, are they still evolving or are they being rejected or adopted with certain reservations in mind? How have these labels at the end of the day been perceived in the media, who are the main actors behind these perceptions and what are the current debates on the same? Have these labels helped in understanding the diversity that we live in or are they one of mere labelling alone? What are the conceptions and misconceptions that find voice in the media, what are the stereotypes and notions on the same, what do these different voices choose to say in the forums that are provided in media?

The following research tries to break down these labels and look at the different perceptions that are constructed as a result of the various ways in which media has been used (or not been used) to reflect different realities.

It thus tries to look at the amorphosity of sexual identities currently at a critical phase of crystallisation. The research will look largely at perceptions that are projected in the media, capture these trends and opinions and try and document them in the light of the progress we have made in understanding (or not understanding) sexual freedom. The effort would be to build a collage of perceptions, focussing and assuming on the fact that there are many identities involved here.
In the current effort there will be two areas where one could be specific, but which would lay stress on the fact that maybe the same approach of understanding perceptions could be used across different contextual bases and individuals.

In my research I am trying to look specifically at India and place the above concerns with special respect to the debates on sexuality of women in India, not forgetting that this exists in a much larger framework with many other identities in play and the fight for negotiation on the same in a shared world. Further in the light of the above concerns a special focus will be given to only one of the identities (or term or label)-of the “lesbian”.

The research will be looking at the Internet, with an emphasis on search engines and debates currently being voiced on the Internet and search for a pattern or trend, if any. Further there will be an attempt to compare the above with documentation from other popular media like songs, stories, legends and telefilms in India.


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