Challenging the Dominant Monolithic Understanding of Hijra Communities in India and Bangladesh


  • Atmaza Chattopadhyay


Hijra identities, erotics, religiosity, kinship, communities


Hijra communities and identities in India and Bangladesh have been impacted by not only colonial violence, but also the rise in nationalism, cast-based violence, increase in religious tensions, and the emergence of western trans-feminist and sex-work activism and scholarship. Considered to be one of the “oldest groups of transgender people” (Guardian, 2015) in South Asia, Hijra communities and movements have reconstructed their identities after the importation of the colonial gender binary. As noted by scholars, the British “observations of groups that they called “eunuchs”” (Dutta, 2012, p.828) emerged around the eighteenth century, as evidenced by their “correspondence” with the “British East India Company” (Dutta, 2012, p.828). The representation of Hijras as “sexually abnormal or anomalous” (Kunihiro, 2022, p.3) furthered the construction of Indians as savage beings which prompted the imposition of the colonial gender binary (Kunihiro, 2022, p.14). This paper aims to explore the construction of hijra identities in India and Bangladesh in order to challenge the dominant monolithic understanding of these communities within the realm of trans-feminisms and politics.

Author Biography

Atmaza Chattopadhyay


Atmaza is a fourth-year BA student majoring in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. She is an international student from Singapore and is currently living as an uninvited guest on the unceded and ancestral lands of the Syilx Okanagan Peoples. Atmaza is interested in researching India’s decolonial feminist and queer thoughts/movements that lie within the country’s history, geography, cultures, and bodies. Through her engagement with various campus partners, Atmaza strives to make space for intersectional voices within academia and advocacy. She has also contributed to the book Practicing Social Justice in Libraries (Routledge, 2022) by examining her experience of doing social justice work within colonial institutions. Her chapter, co-written with Sajni Lacey and Taya Jardine, is called “Creating EDI Internships within the Academic Library — A Case Study.” Atmaza loves spending her time reading books, watching Korean dramas, and wishing that she could own a cat.

The author, Atmaza Chattopadhyay, smiling at the camera outside with a patch of yellow flowers behind her.