Call for Submission : 'My Queer Space'

Call for Submission

 My Queer Space (working title)

Exploring the changing queer landscape of urban India in the context of the Indian queer movement.


OpenWord (Publisher), Varta (a non-profit agency focused on gender and sexuality education through publishing) and Queer Ink (Publisher) have partnered to publish an anthology that will boldly visit, highlight and examine how Indian urban realities have shaped and facilitated the queer movement. We will recall synergies that have emerged from the gender and sexuality communities that have changed urban spaces in tone and texture and tell individual stories of success and failure behind the larger story of the Indian queer movement in the cities and towns.


My Queer Space will address issues such as:

  • How have urban realities shaped and facilitated the growth of the movement,

  • Can these strategies be replicable in non-urban, small town, and rural areas,

  • What synergies have emerged from the gender and sexuality communities that have changed urban spaces in tone and texture,

  • What are the individual stories of success and failure behind the larger story of the Indian queer movement in the cities and towns.

  • Is the movement segmented based on class, gender and social status because of differential access to spaces.

My Queer Space is premised within an understanding of what constitutes a city:

  • Its spaces, languages, transportation facilities, people and their culture, economy, laws and politics,

  • The analysis will also include the special functions that space occupies in the life of a city,

  • How are public spaces conceived and used,

  • How do public spaces become popular and exciting,

  • The variety of spaces that exist in the city for people to meet – cafes, parks, hotels, markets, restaurants, museums, public transport systems, streets, shops,

  • What makes these spaces relevant, legitimate, famous or infamous,

  • How do different individuals belonging to the gender and sexuality diversity spectrum access them,

  • What roles do queer art, literature, and the radical and subversive space of imagination play in creating these spaces.

My Queer Space will offer a critique of rules and regulations that accompany the notion of a public space in an urban centre in terms of:

  • What are the defined and undefined rules of entry and engagement,

  • What characteristics do spaces tagged in popular imagination (such as, peaceful, dangerous, busy, depressing, subversive) embody, and how do these notions shift.

Context 1

These issues will be discussed in a queer context. More specifically, we are keen to explore with you factors responsible in creating these spaces in the middle of a busy city, which can scarcely stop to catch its breath. We would like your stories of how these spaces offer safety and anonymity to you as a queer person in the middle of urban chaos. What does this mean for queer people, for other people, for law and order, for public morality and for sexual ethics?

My Queer Space will specifically examine the intricacies of negotiating queer lives by interpreting urban spaces through the lens of urban sexual networks, vanishing safe spaces, love online, metro and other railway networks, urban centres through the eyes of queer residents and migrants from semi-urban or rural India, and the radical space of imagination evidenced in queer art, literature and film *(read detailed note on these lens below.)

The new exciting, first of its kind anthology will examine each of these aspects to understand the nature of the queer movement in India, until the recent Supreme Court Judgment that reinstatement the colonial law, Section 377 of the IPC, thereby recriminalising homosexuality. We will examine how these aspects contributed to the growth of the Indian queer movement and whether it has strengthened or fragmented the movement.

Looking at how urban realities have shaped India’s queer movement till date will provide insights into what has worked for the movement, what has not; and ultimately what should be the thrust areas for strengthening the queer movement in urban areas given that the pace of urbanisation is accelerating and queer individuals even in rural areas are going to be more and more dependent on the urban centres for their survival.

We welcome research and interview-based writings, essays, reportage, first-person narratives, poetry and fiction, and photographic / artwork-based narratives. The maximum word limit will be 3,000 words. Photographs and artworks need to be in printable files – jpeg images of minimum 300 DPI each.


  • April 31, 2014: Deadline for an expression of interest as a 200-word abstract. Abstracts for photograph and artwork-based contributions should be sent along with samples of earlier work,

  • May 20, 2014: Notification of selection with Editorial feedback.

  • June 31, 2014: Deadline for the first draft of entire contribution.

  • July15, 2014: Deadline for submission of the final version of your Work.

Context 2

Read more about interpreting urban spaces through the lens of:

Urban sexual networks: Spaces are conduits that channel sexual desire in cities. For Indian queer people, spaces are as good as the networks they accommodate. Queer networks have a history of 'occupying' urban spaces from cruising parks to public toilets, bus stops to railway stations, and more recently, in keeping with the changing topography of cities, queer nightclubs, cafes and shopping malls. These physical spaces are both sexual in and of themselves and lead to other spaces they open up to become sexual playgrounds including dark alleys, private cars or empty apartments. This section looks at how queer Indian people have forced a personal life in strange, unexpected spaces, which have sheltered their 'forbidden' desires.

Vanishing safe spaces: In the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to queer rights activism and HIV work, several queer spaces opened up for queer communities as safe spaces. These included drop-in centres, support group meetings, counseling spaces run by NGOs and the like. For many queer people these became a safe first step into the community. However, with other spaces opening up thanks to mobile phones, the Internet and the nightclub culture, many of the earlier safe spaces have vanished. This section examines the evolution of safe and unsafe spaces for Indian queer people.

Love online: The Internet has been one of the most subversive cultural forces globally in the last 20 years. It has significantly changed the rules of the game for making social, sexual and emotional contact for everyone including queer people. Quite understandably, queer Indians have taken a large proportion of their personal matters online which offers them a certain kind of safety and anonymity. However, these spaces are not always as 'safe' as we think them and not all online stories have a happy ending though some do. This section examines the era of queer love online.

Metro and other railway networks: Development in urban centres means more people, infrastructure, concrete and more chaos. India has seen exploding urban populations, including a high proportion of migrants, and the construction of metro railway and 'underground' projects in the last 20 years. These are the new nooks and corners where and through which queer people connect, and form relationships. The railway networks in particular have their own charm as dynamic, mobile, anonymous spaces, much like the lives of many Indian queer people. The section examines relationships on-the-go.

Urban centres from a semi-urban or rural perspective: This section will focus on stories of queer people living in semi-urban and rural areas: what does the city mean to them as queer persons – an avenue for education, livelihood, personal liberty, self-realization or perhaps exploitation? Has there been queer community mobilization in rural areas? If yes, what has been the experience? How does it compare with the urban scenario?

The radical space of imagination in queer literature, art, films and photography: The imagination questions, probes and challenges the neat structures of the world. Nowhere is this more visible than in queer expressions of art, literature, films and photography, which embody a radical space that subverts the norm. This space - let’s call it the Imagined – is also the repository of choice and agency. It is easy to counter that the Imagined is escapist, but its importance can’t be stressed enough. For it is here that we begin to know who we are.

Our strong editorial preference is for unpublished works, but we will consider stories that have been published in a very small circulation publication or website, or a non-English publication. Please disclose any prior publications in your email.

A Note on Anonymity

We welcome submissions by writers who prefer to use a different name in print. If your story is selected, we will need your real name for legal purposes, including copyright and payments. We will keep your name 100% confidential if you prefer.

Please email your abstract to:

About the Editors

Dhamini Ratnam - Editor

Dhamini Ratnam studied literature from Miranda House and enjoys reading Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Stephen King and Agatha Christie, not necessarily in that order. At present, she is a journalist with Mint Lounge and longs for the day when she can earn her keep by reading books. 

Imran Ali Khan - Editor

Imran Ali Khan graduated with a bachelors degree in English Literature from St. Xaviers College, Bombay. In 2009 he joined Open Space (Center for Communication and Development Studies, Pune). During his time there he took care of their arts programs with a special focus on gender and sexuality. He ran the Q Fest, Pune's first Queer film festival, for two years. Later, Imran conceptualized and ran a project called Kiski Kahani: The Ramayana Project ( Kiski Kahani was an archival project that documented the diversity of the Ramayana with special attention to folk narratives. Imran edited an anthology of essays, stories and photo essays on the plurality of the Ramayana tradition in India (Kiski Kahani: An Anthology of Personal Journeys with the Ramayana). Imran teaches a Liberal Arts Program at ISDI Parsons, Bombay and works with Contemporary Arts and Crafts designing and promoting Indian craft. 

Pawan Dhall - Editor

Among the first queer community mobilizers in India since the early 1990s, Pawan Dhall also used to edit "Pravartak", one of India's earliest queer journals. He has been a regular contributor to queer-themed writings, and is currently associated with Varta, a gender and sexuality education and publishing initiative.

Shaleen Rakesh – Senior Editor

Author and activist, Shaleen Rakesh has been at the forefront of India's gender and sexuality movement for over two decades. Primary petitioner to challenge Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2001, he is presently Director at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi, and Editor with independent publishing house OpenWord. His first collection of poems "The Lion and the Antler" (World View Publications, 2013) has received much acclaim.

Towards Building More Just and Democratic Societies

Discussions on New Social Movement in Our Times

And, the launch of two books – Interrogating Empires and Imagining Alternatives – as part of
the Are Other Worlds Possible ? series
Publishers : OpenWord and Daanish Books
January 17, 2012; Tuesday
4:00 PM to 7:30 PM IST (+ 5:30 GMT)
36, Regal Building, Connaught Place,
on Sansad Marg (Parliament Street), near and above The Shop and People Tree,
New Delhi-110 011.


Many more people in ‘the public’ are today interested in and – perhaps – more supportive than before of the burgeoning ‘social movement’ that is so evident both across the country and across the world today - across North Africa (and in fact, in much of Africa), in Abya Yala (Latin America), and the Occupy, indignado [‘the indignant’], and other movements in Europe and on Turtle Island (North America); all of which in one way or another speak to the struggle of building more just and democratic societies. This apparently increasing support and legitimacy surely has a lot to do with the continuing ripples of the 2007 financial crisis, combined with the loss of legitimacy the governments are facing across the world as a function of how they have handled the situation and also the looming climate crisis; and surely also with the fact that the middle sections of societies all over the world, driven as they have now been to conditions of precarity, have now joined the proverbial ‘500 years’ of struggle of the structurally marginalised.
Some are also interested in – and concerned by - the either critical dismissal or the all-but-uncritical but seemingly selective lionisation that is taking place in academia and in the media about some movements (especially when they happen ‘elsewhere’). And aside from this, there are very also serious related developments taking place – in India, as elsewhere - under the guise of so-called ‘good governance’, including increasingly repressive legislation, surveillance, and police and military action against democratic movements, some open but much of it covert, and with much of it under the cover of ‘anti-terrorism’.  What does all this have to say for politics and for social life ?
Especially since there seems to not yet have been much discussion on this subject here in India so far – or certainly, in Delhi -, we at OpenWord and Daanish Books decided that we should use the opportunity of launching the two books that we are co-publishing, which are on directly related issues, to open up and critically engage with this question. Especially given the very wide range of experience and insight that our invited speakers collectively bring to the meeting, we think that this will lead to a very interesting and provocative discussion – one that we hope may lead to many further such discussions. We therefore invite you not just to join us but to take part so that it does !
Event Details

The Event

With the event chaired by Professor Imtiaz Ahmed (click on the adjacent tab for sketches of all the speakers), we will start with an invocation of poetry readings :
Movement in our times
Krishnan Unni P, teaching in the Dept of English, Deshbandhu College, Delhi University
This opening will be followed by the launch of the two books :
Introduction by Jai Sen, editor of the two books, and co-coordinator, OpenWord
Comments by Dhruva Narayan, managing editor and publisher of Daanish Books
Release of the books by the speakers.

And then by the Seminar :

Social Movements as New Politics ?

where we have invited three speakers to critically engage with the idea of social movement as new politics and with the current phenomenon of ‘social movement’ almost worldwide – across India and across North Africa and Africa more generally, across Abya Yala (Latin America), and also the Occupy, indignado, and other movements in Europe and on Turtle Island (North America) :

Practising movement
Speaker : Madhuri, activist with the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan [‘Awakened Adivasi and Dalit Organisation’] in Madhya Pradesh, India
Communicating (in) movement
Speaker : Anja Kovacs, Internet Democracy Project, New Delhi
Theorising movement
Speaker : Aditya Nigam, social and political theorist and activist working with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.



Notes on the Speakers

Aditya Nigam, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
A social and political theorist and activist, Aditya works with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. He has been active in the Left movement for three decades, and was a full time activist with the CPI(M) from 1980-90. Since 1992, he has been actively involved with different citizens’ initiatives in India, especially on workers' rights and anti-communal forums. His interests are political and social theory, and he has both been engaged in research on questions of identity, nationalism, and radical politics and has published regularly on these issues in various journals.  His recent publications include The Insurrection of Little Selves : The Crisis of Secular Nationalism in India (Oxford University Press, 2006) and, with Nivedita Menon, Power and Contestation : India Since 1989 (Orient Longman, 2007).
Anja Kovacs, Internet Democracy Project, New Delhi
Anja is the driving force behind the Internet Democracy Project, which engages in research and advocacy on the promises and challenges that the Internet poses for democracy and social justice in the developing world. The project currently focuses in particular on issues related to freedom of expression and the Internet – especially in India and South Asia, but also globally (see here). Anja is also a Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, where she has worked on a range of issues, including researching on online activism in India. She obtained a PhD in development studies from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, and has been based in India since 2001.
Madhuri, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh
A full-time activist with the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhuri has worked with JADS for the past thirteen years. JADS is a non-party, non-funded, membership-based ‘jan sangathan’ currently active in the predominantly adivasi district of Barwani, Madhya Pradesh, in India. JADS campaigns on issues of adivasi control of natural resources and so-called ‘development’ processes, and against state violence and expropriation. Mostly, JADS’ work is an attempt by adivasis to collectively negotiate and fight a hostile colonial terrain, recover their dignity, and ward off the fragmentation of their community by disruptive market and state forces, while simultaneously envisioning alternatives. There is also an attempt to ally with other communities of working peoples to forge a larger struggle for a just society. She is the only non-adivasi activist in the organisation.
Krishnan Unni P, Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi
Unni is a writer in Malayalam and English with two books to his credit, and teaches at Deshbandhu College in the University of Delhi. His articles and poems have appeared in national and international journals, and a collection of his poems in English is due for publishing.
Chair :
Imtiaz Ahmad, retired Professor of Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Imtiaz Ahmad, retired Professor of Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, received his training in anthropology and sociology at the Universities of Lucknow and Delhi. He was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Chicago during 1967-68 and Visiting Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology at the University of Missouri during 1968-70, and a Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research during 1970-72. The list of his published works include Caste and Social Stratification among Muslims in India, Family, Kinship, and Marriage among Muslims in India, Ritual and Religion among Muslims in India, and Modernization and Social Change among Muslims in India.