At Risk
Indian Sexual Politics and the Global AIDS Crisis
Gowri Vijayakumar


Contents and Abstracts
1 Introduction
chapter abstract

The global AIDS crisis temporarily transformed the terrain on which sex workers, sexual minorities, and transgender people engaged the state. This introduction discusses how nation-states govern sexuality in the global AIDS context, how social movements in India have responded to and transformed such governance and global public health approaches—as in Kenya—and what the methods and sites of research were for this book.

2 India and the Specter of African AIDS
chapter abstract

The urgency of India's AIDS response was defined and contested in relation to the West and Africa. This chapter analyzes medical journal and news media articles from the 1980s through the mid-2000s to trace shifting discourses of the specter of the African AIDS epidemic in India, combined with postcolonial tensions about the immorality of the West. While early commentators positioned the Indian epidemic in contrast to a homosexual Western one, by the 2000s, commentators shifted to warning that India's epidemic would "go the way of Africa." Ultimately, designations of risk and crisis took shape within these debates about where Indian sexuality fit into the global order.

3 From Containment to Incorporation
chapter abstract

Faced with an impending crisis, the Indian state first turned to strategies of coercive containment of sex workers. This chapter shows how, through a process of struggle between social movements and the state, containment evolved into a strategy by which the state incorporated sex workers and later sexual minorities and transgender people into some parts of the AIDS response, while leaving other legal restrictions untouched. This incorporation took place conditionally and unevenly, through partnerships with community organizations that were both part of and outside the state. These hybrid partnerships allowed the state to circumvent bureaucratic limitations and dominant sexual norms.

4 At-Risk Citizens
chapter abstract

As organizations took on the task of HIV prevention among sex workers, sexual minorities, and transgender people, they operated in relation to global AIDS institutions and the state as well as in relation to local political alliances. This chapter, focusing on sex worker organizations in Bangalore, charts how they articulated citizenship claims within their local political terrain, in relation to public health NGOs and feminist, Dalit, labor, and sexual minority activists. These articulations took on a range of forms, some collaborative and some more oppositional to AIDS agencies, and with distinct formulations of sex worker identity.

5 Risky Selves
chapter abstract

The hybrid spaces of HIV prevention were sites of surveillance and reproduced dominant norms of gendered respectability, but they also created an unexpected terrain for social mobility, friendship, and care. This chapter shows how HIV prevention programs could become sites for building new forms of selfhood, as sex workers, sexual minorities, and transgender people experimented with new sexual vocabularies and discourses, diversified their incomes, and built supportive friendships.

6 Making It Count
chapter abstract

Quantification is a key technique by which complex political processes are translated and circulated within global fields. This chapter analyzes the processes by which numbers about the Indian AIDS epidemic response were produced and debated. It traces how quantification abstracted HIV prevention programs from the engagements between state and social movements in which they took shape, and it shows how they were taken up in Kenya in a very different form.

7 India in Africa
chapter abstract

Contemporary India-Africa partnerships build on a legacy of colonial and postcolonial discourses of civilizational hierarchy, and they take shape within the context of increasing Indian investment in Africa. This chapter turns to the ways in which AIDS experts, NGOs, and activists in India and Kenya navigated these South-South dynamics. As HIV prevention strategies were adapted in Kenya, some experts reproduced racialized and sexualized hierarchies between India and Kenya while others debated cultural differences and activists found opportunities for transnational solidarities.

8 After AIDS
chapter abstract

This chapter reflects on the limits of crisis as an organizing logic for global intervention and humanitarian aid. Considering the individual and collective trajectories of sex workers, sexual minorities, and transgender HIV prevention workers after AIDS began to be considered an issue of the past, this chapter points to the conditionality of inclusion occasioned by crisis.