Changing the Subject: Feminist and Queer Politics in Neoliberal India

We are delighted to welcome Professor Srila Roy (University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg) to present this week’s School Research Seminar.


In her recent book Changing the Subject* (2022, Duke University Press) Srila Roy maps the rapidly transforming terrain of gender and sexual politics in India under the conditions of global neoliberalism. The consequences of India’s liberalization were paradoxical: the influx of global funds for social development and NGOs signalled the co-optation and depoliticization of struggles for women’s rights, even as they amplified the visibility and vitalization of queer activism. Roy reveals the specificity of activist and NGO work around issues of gender and sexuality through a decade-long ethnography of two West Bengal organizations, one working on lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues and the other on rural women’s empowerment. Tracing changes in feminist governmentality that were entangled in transnational neoliberalism, Roy shows how historical and highly local feminist currents shaped contemporary queer and nonqueer neoliberal feminisms. The interplay between historic techniques of activist governance and queer feminist governmentality’s focus on changing the self offers a new way of knowing feminism – both as always already co-opted and as a transformative force in the world. 

*You can read the Preface and Introduction to the book for free here. 

About the speaker: 

Srila Roy is Professor of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Her long-standing research and teaching expertise is in the area of transnational feminist studies. Her latest books are the co-edited, Intimacy and Injury: in the wake of #MeToo in India and South Africa (Manchester University Press, 2022) and the sole-authored, Changing the Subject: Feminist and Queer Politics in Neoliberal India (Duke University Press, 2022), which won the Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association's Sexualities section in 2023.  

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