The Dera Paradigm: Homecoming of the Gendered Other
This article engages with the idiosyncratic dwelling practices of khwajasara, a Pakistani gender-variant subjectivity better known as hijre in the larger South Asian context. As a prevalent type of khwajasara household, the dera plays a paradigmatic role in their homecoming narratives; whether as a post-home, the refuge from an unhomely natal familial house and a terrorising school environment, or as an intermediary bodily, spiritual and communal sanctuary on a journey towards one’s Home after post-home. Anchored in the idea of the dera, and especially as intimated to me on a late September afternoon in Lahore, this article zigzags through khwajasara’s historical and present-day multi-local experiences of homecoming, which is posited here as both spatial and identitary journeying towards collective thereness. As a property of dwelling with kindred souls, I argue that thereness equips khwajasara with exploratory senses of the subject, including, at times, those of being otherworldly and nomadic. Such thereness disrupts the very idea of settlement and allows the dera and its inhabitants to not only transgress communal boundaries—such as those of gender, religion, ethnicity and language—but also to construe home as a journey, not a destination. At the same time, it reveals various productive anxieties about khwajasara’s—or, indeed, everyone’s—classed, urbanised, economised and gendered home-life.
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