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Unique but Common: Marginality of Pakistani Hijras in South Asian Perspective


· Alina Filimonova Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow, Russia)


07/26 | 18:10-18:30 UTC+2/CEST


Marginality of hijras in Pakistan requires inter-disciplinary approach firstly because the very phenomenon of hijra is multidimensional itself. On the one hand, the term “hijra” is broadly applied to mark out a person with any deviation from commonly accepted gender roles – from physical deformity to the mismatch between sex and gender identity. On the other hand, hijra communities precede not only state of Pakistan, but even the coming of Islam to South Asia, dating back to ancient times and thus serving as a link between the present-day Pakistan and the pre-Islamic history of the region. For these reasons position of hijras can be analyzed not only from the point of view of social psychology, economics, civil law and religious studies, but also culturology, since Pakistani hijras form a cultural phenomenon in terms of their historical and national specificity. The whole concept of hijra is marginalized in Pakistan at various levels and by means of different instruments. However, besides standing apart from common patterns of modern Pakistani society, the local hijra community derives many of its behavioral standards from the general hijra tradition that has being persisting in South Asia for centuries. For this reason, it is by putting Pakistani hijra culture in the broader interstate perspective that its complexity can be truly understood. In this paper we aim to explore the uniqueness of Pakistani hijra marginality in two dimensions: within the inner discourse of Pakistani society and in the transnational context of multi-layered hijra communities in South Asia.