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Anthropology Colloquium: Brian Horton

Friday, October 29, 2021 at 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Virtual Event

Shimmers in the Dark: On the Possibilities of Intimate Touch in Bombay’s Queer Sexpublics 


Abstract:In Bombay’s cruising parks, gay parties, pride events, and virtual spaces—what I call queer sexpublics—queer sex, touch, and intimacy flourish. Though queer and trans people perpetually negotiate risk and rejection in search of love, sex and intimacy, queer sexpublics enable practices that allow them to both endure as well as play with state and social violences. Drawing on 28 months of fieldwork conducted in Bombay between 2013 and 2019, this talk asks: How might queer and trans lives be lived outside of and against the reaches of cultural intelligibility and legal and social recognition? And how might queer studies and anthropology engage this abundance of life in the face of violence, risk, and erasure—“More Life” (Chambers-Letson 2018)—as a means of recognizing minoritarian lives not just in the moments when they are in crisis, but also when they brim with unbridled possibilities? I develop the concept of the shimmer—fleeting, coded moments of queer touch and intimacy–to examine unruly, temporary, and critical forms of life that are simultaneously ephemeral (here and then gone) as well as speculative (strategic calculations of risks for rewards). Shimmers name how people eke out forms of possibility, pleasure, and intimacy amid precarious and risky existences. 


Dr. Brian A. Horton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Brandeis University. At Brandeis, he is also an affiliated faculty member in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, African and African American Studies, and the South Asian Studies Program, which he currently chairs. Brian is a sociocultural anthropologist working across queer anthropology, South Asian Studies, and “otherwise anthropology”—or an anthropology of the political, social, ethical, and aesthetic possibilities that emerge from ongoing structural violence, precarity, and crisis. Across each of these broad domains, his research and teaching center the thresholds between pleasure and violence; wherein he asks how gender, sexual, and racial minorities experience and endure myriad forms of violence while simultaneously enacting new possibilities and futures. Currently, he is working on his first book-length monograph, Shimmers of the Fabulous: Public Sex and Intimate Touch in Queer and Trans Bombay. His work has appeared in Sexualities, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, and QED: Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking

Co-sponsored by South Asia Program and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. thank you.

Contact Liz at if you have any questions or if you need accommodations.


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Anthropology, South Asia Program, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Studies


cascal, anthro, cashum, fgsscal, sapcal

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Liz Kirk

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Brian Horton

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Brandeis University

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