Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife
Gay nightlife as sociopolitical performance
Ishtyle follows queer South Asian men across borders into gay neighborhoods, nightclubs, bars, and house parties in Bangalore and Chicago. Bringing the cultural practices they are most familiar with into these spaces, these men accent the aesthetics of nightlife cultures through performance. Kareem Khubchandani develops the notion of “ishtyle” to name this accented style, while also showing how brown bodies inadvertently become accents themselves, ornamental inclusions in the racialized grammar of desire. Ishtyle allows us to reimagine a global class perpetually represented as docile and desexualized workers caught in the web of global capitalism. The book highlights a different kind of labor, the embodied work these men do to feel queer and sexy together. Engaging major themes in queer studies, Khubchandani explains how his interlocutors’ performances stage relationships between: colonial law and public sexuality; film divas and queer fans; and race, caste, and desire. Ultimately, the book demonstrates that the unlikely site of nightlife can be a productive venue for the study of global politics and its institutional hierarchies.
Praise / Awards
“Ishtyle captures the complex vectors of power—the hierarchies of caste, region, class—that mark the spaces of gay Desi nightlife, even as those who participate in these spaces challenge multiple meanings of normative national and ‘global gay’ cosmopolitan identities. Khubchandani’s own diasporic travels and trajectories are central, as he is both an astute observer and fully embedded, and embodied, participant. He is acutely aware of how gay nightlife spaces are sites of imagining otherwise, even as they are haunted by those who are kept outside its doors: the abjected classed and caste-inflected trans-femininities that are invariably denied entry. Khubchandani brings his own inimitable ‘ishtyle’ to existing queer, South Asian, and performance studies scholarship, and in so doing produces a deeply moving, eloquent testament to the laborious pleasures, and pleasurable labors, of queer worldmaking practices.”
—Gayatri Gopinath, New York University
“A flawless guide through the queer nights of the South Asian diaspora in the 21st century. Deeply attuned to the ephemeral signs of queer ishtyle—that accented, slightly-off style that marks localities, migrations, and fabulously failed assimilations—Khubchandani describes the gestures and encounters that bring diaspora into being on the dance floor. This is a vital work of performance ethnography, written with exuberance and love for the brown worlds it conjures.”
—Shane Vogel, Ruth N. Halls Professor of English, Indiana University
“A gorgeous, at times brilliant, ever stylish, fun, and surprising ethnography of queer desi nightlife around the world. . . . Ishtyle is original, well-researched, lively, and queer.”
—Naisargi N. Dave, University of Toronto
"Khubchandani’s ethnography is beautiful and complex... Overall Ishtyle makes a significant contribution to understanding drag labour, South Asian queer diasporas and popular culture."
—Asian Studies Review
"[Khubchandani] is not a professional voyeur, peeking in with a heteronormative gaze just because queerness now seems cool and marketable. The knowledge he generates is possible only because of his unique vantage point as a performance studies scholar, a drag queen, and a transnational desi. ...He speaks of the gay men he meets from a place of “critical generosity.” They are not merely subjects to be studied. Many of them are friends, acquaintances, community members, and love interests. There is a relationship of care."
Winner, 2021 Outstanding Book Award, Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)
2021 Dance Studies Association de la Torre Bueno Book Prize Winner (DSA)
Honorable Mention for the 2021 GLQ Caucus of the MLA and Queer/Trans Caucus of ASA Alan Bray Book Prize.
News, Reviews, Interviews
reviewed in the Hindustan Times | 06/24/2021
Virtual Book Launch, moderated by Ramon Rivera-Servera | 08/25/2020
: Kareem Khubchandani interviewed by Sneha Annavarapu about Ishtyle
for the New Books Network - South Asian Studies I 08/24/2020
: Kareem Khubchandani interviewed on Impact Duty
: Kareem Khubchandani interviewed by Josephine Tolin about Ishtyle
for the U-M LSA Center for South Asian Studies | 7/14/2020
: Kareem Khubchandani on the British Council India Instagram live broadcast, #PrideatHome | 06/20/2020
: Kareem Khubchandani interviewed by Priya Arora about Ishtyle
on the Queering Desi podcast | 1/22/2020
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