Book / Marginalised Sexual Figures and Sexuality in Kerala’s Public Sphere

Mokkil, Navaneetha. Unruly Figures: Queerness, Sex Work, and the Politics of Sexuality in Kerala. Decolonizing Feminisms Series. Washington: University of Washington Press, 2019.
ISBN 9780295745572 / Paperback / 280 pages / USD 30

About the Book (edited): The vibrant media landscape in Kerala, where kiosks overflow with magazines and colorful film posters line roadside walls, creates a sexually charged public sphere that has a long history of political protests. The 2014 ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign garnered national attention, sparking controversy as images of activists kissing in public and dragged into police vans flooded the media.

In Unruly Figures, Navaneetha Mokkil tracks the cultural practices through which sexual figures—particularly the sex worker and the lesbian—are produced in the public imagination. Her analysis includes representations of the prostitute figure in popular media, trajectories of queerness in Malayalam films, public discourse on lesbian sexuality, the autobiographical project of sex worker and activist Nalini Jameela, and the memorialisation of murdered transgender activist Sweet Maria, showing how various marginalised figures stage their own fractured journeys of resistance in the post-1990s context of globalization.

By bringing a substantial body of Malayalam-language literature and media texts on gender, sexuality, and social justice into conversation with current debates around sexuality studies and transnational feminism in Asian and Anglo-American academia, Mokkil reorients the debates on sexuality in India by considering the fraught trajectories of identity and rights.

About the Author: Navaneetha Mokkil is assistant professor at the Centre for Women’s Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is the co-editor of Thinking Women: A Feminist Reader.
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