'More-than-closet' geographies: exploring queered spaces through the sexual lives of men in Delhi.


Bhairannavar Kiran

PhD defended at: 

National University of Singapore


This thesis elaborates and operationalizes a ‘more-than-closet’ framework for the study of sexualities and space. In India, non-normative sexual and gendered practices have historically been closeted and this continues to have significant bearing on contemporary (queer) lives and spaces. However, contemporary heteronormative urban contexts also provide opportunities for men to engage in male-to-male sex and negotiate these desires alongside other aspects of their lives. In examining such lives and negotiations in the city of Delhi, the thesis explores possibilities for extending the concept of ‘the closet’ to geographical analysis of sexualities beyond its ‘Western’ origins. Drawing on ethnographic cases from ten months of field work in Delhi, it explores three sets of spaces, namely, residential living space, urban public space and cyberspace. It is argued that while ‘the closet’ continues to have its hold on lives of men practicing same-sex sexualities, urban space enables a series of more-than-closet possibilities and experiences. The thesis attends to the specificity of the Indian social context in enabling such possibilities while also bringing into view phenomena that may enable men to negotiate and navigate the ‘heteronormative’ in other contexts. As such the thesis is intended to extend the study of ‘the closet’ conceptually and geographically.