Against Taxonomy and Subalternity: Reconsidering the Thirdness and Otherness of Hijras of Gujarat

Akiko Kunihiro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper aims to demonstrate how we may consider the non-normativity of the people in India known as hijras. Because of their non-normative gender, hijras have been regarded and described as deviants in colonial documents and later dubbed "alternative gender," "third sex," and "third gender" by scholars. Nowadays, under the official umbrella of the "third gender" category, hijras have become more visible as subaltern individuals who do not fit into normative gender divisions. In this paper, I highlight an alternative way of understanding their nonnormativity to destabilize a monolithic image of the hijra community, which extends throughout, the country by foregrounding local narratives and rules of incorporation of externality at the temple of the Mother-Goddess in Gujarat. Hijras of Gujarat, particularly those who belong to pāvaiya, collectively identify themselves with a feminine deity through their devotional practices. Their collective subordination to Bahucharā Mātā encourages their own agency to enhance their presence in the realm of religion. If they can set up their agency properly during the transient opportunity of pilgrimage, pāvaiya need not be politically identified as the third gender or a subaltern group for the sake of survival.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSouth Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Hijras
  • agency
  • divinity
  • externality
  • identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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