Breaking free of the binary: Gender habitus, heteronormative domination, and classificatory struggles

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Title: Breaking free of the binary: Gender habitus, heteronormative domination, and classificatory struggles
Author: Kunwar, Jagat Bahadur
Contributor: Hanken School of Economics, Department of Management and Organisation, Management and Organisation
Belongs to series: Ekonomi och samhälle - 355 - Economics and society - 355
ISSN: 0424-7256 (printed)
2242-699X (PDF)
ISBN: 978-952-232-449-8 (printed)
978-952-232-450-4 (PDF)
Abstract: Some individuals face social discrimination due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Despite legal successes, social inequalities for sexual and gender minorities (SGM) persists. The aim of the study was to understand: (1) Which social inequalities do SGM face and how are these inequalities reproduced? and (2) How, and to what effect, has collective action subverted these individuals’ experience of oppression? The ongoing SGM movement in Nepal, which started around the year 2001, is used as a case study. The study empirically adopts a multi-level field analysis. Correspondence analysis performed on an existing census of SGM population in Nepal revealed various SGM clusters with their corresponding sociodemographic characteristics and social discrimination experienced. Narratives of SGM revealed how they construct their own identities and interpret the social inequalities faced. In-depth interviews with influential actors explained how gender taxonomies are established and contested in various social fields. Text-mining operations on a media corpus revealed significant ‘discourse clusters’ and helped to understand discursive evolution of the SGM movement in Nepal. A systematic bibliometric survey of sexuality and gender studies helped to contextualize some unique SGM issues in the ‘Global South’. Social construction, self-construction, embodiment, and intersectionality of social categories are important to understand sexuality and gender. Narratives of the lived experiences produce a coherent sense of gender identity. Sexuality and gender can additionally be understood as ‘habitus’/dispositions–inculcated through socialization–and transformed through everyday practices. The bases of social inequalities faced by SGM are social stigma, ‘identity ambiguities’, and an ‘internalized’ form of oppression. Intersecting social identities can further lead to a unique experience of oppression. This study identifies discriminatory gender taxonomies as the root cause producing and perpetuating social inequalities. However, inequalities faced by SGM are not uniform but hierarchical and nested. The severity of the heteronormative domination is mediated by the masculine domination already existing in a society. SGM activism can be viewed as delegitimizing the discriminatory gender taxonomies across various social fields. ‘Gender reflexivity’ arising due to the dialectic of subjective identification towards socially constructed categories is the main force for social activism. Gender reflexivity articulated as personally empowering narratives– when combined with commensurable experiences of oppression faced by various intersectional categories–can develop a collective identity which can be further mobilized through collective organization and symbolic representation. Effective leadership focused on building a common agenda and group consciousness can leverage individual reflexivity into collective action for social justice.
Date: 2021-10-18
Subject: gender identity
gender habitus
Global South
sexual orientation
LGBTI movement

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