QUEER AESTHETICS & SOUTH ASIAN AUNTIES
Auntologies is an interdisciplinary transnational study of the notorious figure of the South Asian aunty. While aunties are commonly represented as enforcers of heteronormativity, this project develops alternative readings and archives to explore her value to LGBTQ people and queer politics. Auntologies employs oral history alongside performance, literary, visual, and film analysis to explore a diverse archive that includes: recordings of Indian women’s dance performances in Ghana; plays and sitcoms of pioneering British Indian actress Meera Syal; and digital artworks of South Asian Canadian Instagram-based artists. Auntologies argues that the search for queer aesthetics, desire, and sexuality does not have to look away from the migrant home, especially if we understand home more broadly to include aunties and other extended kin that Western home and family models do not always accommodate. The widespread representation of aunties in plays, novels, and even memes (check out all my auntie memes here) depicts them as epitomic of heteronormativity—constantly grooming young women for marriage, and reprimanding effeminate and tomboyish behavior. But the aunty is also permitted to transgress gender norms because she is not in the nuclear family. Situated at the cusp of the nuclear family, she acquires a liminality that allows queer artists to riff on her unique authority to both permit and foreclose gender and sexual dissidence.