The World That Belongs to Us: Contesting Queer & Trans* Politics in Pakistan
In this webinar, prominent Pakistani khwajasira activist Mehrub Moiz Awan will be in conversation with curator, writer, and researcher Aziz Sohail. In the past five years the landscape of trans and queer activism and discourse in Pakistan has shifted considerably with historic Supreme Court rulings recognizing the rights of transgender citizens, and the 2018 Transgender Persons Act which established broad protections for trans rights. This has paralleled the increasing inclusion of trans* voices in the gender rights movement including Aurat March, as well as in cultural and media production in the country. The backlash and resultant visible violence has also been considerable. Awan has been at the forefront of this movement with many other collective individuals, making spaces for empowerment and visibility as well as centering decolonial, indigenous, and intersectional approaches and joy and celebration, even under great precarity. Awan will explore with Sohail both this complex history as well as future capacities of trans and queer organizing in Pakistan.
Dr. Mehrub Moiz Awan is a khwajasira* activist and global policy practitioner with a strong interest in institutional and governance reform in post-colonial states, and issues of gender and sexuality. Her methodology is transdisciplinary, and utilizes elements of human-centred design thinking, participatory ethnography, systems thinking, and econometrics. She has previously consulted for the World Bank, Washington DC, International Center for Research on Women, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. She has a Doctor of Medicine and obtained her Masters in Global Health Policy as a Fulbright scholar from The George Washington University, USA. Nowadays, she consults for national organizations and governments for evidence-based reform in multiple arenas. She is also featured on media frequently for her anti-colonial and progressive opinions.
(Khwajasira is an indigenous South Asian gender-spirituality and gender-identity recognized by the Government of Pakistan as a gender separate from man and woman)
Aziz Sohail is an art curator, writer and researcher whose work is focused on building interdisciplinary connections and supporting new cultural and pedagogical infrastructures. Since 2020, with The Many Headed Hydra, he has been co-leading a language where yesterday are the same word. Kal, a trans*oceanic platform supporting practices enacting queer pasts/futures and decolonial ecologies. His current research is a meditation on the longue-duree intersections of sexuality and colonialism with migration, law and identity through the work of practitioners who navigate empire(s) and its afterlives.
Sohail has been part of residencies and workshops with The New Art Gallery Walsall, England (2015), Khoj, New Delhi (2018), the Nepal Picture Library (2019), and Maxim Gorki Theater, Germany (2019) and the ONE Archives, Los Angeles (2021-2022). His current practice is being supported by a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council (2019-2022). He has previously worked with organizations such as the British Council and the Lahore Biennale Foundation to build new cultural initiatives and spaces in Pakistan. As a South Asia Fellow at Cornell University in 2017, he began a long term project building an archive of cultural and visual production in Karachi from the 1990s through today which led to an exhibition-symposium co-organised with Bani Abidi at the Sharjah Art Foundation (2019).
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