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Aaberg, Lars (2022) Productively Queer: An Ethnography of the "Business Case" for LGBTQI Diversity and Inclusion in India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Convinced there is economic value to extract from LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) people and culture, corporate India has increasingly invested resources in practices of what proponents call “diversity and inclusion” (D&I), or the twin efforts of marketing LGBTQI culture and employing LGBTQI workers. This thesis asks: Who are the actors motivating corporate India to speculate on LGBTQI value, and how? To answer this, the thesis provides an ethnography of the “business case” for LGBTQI D&I, or the discourse that makes commensurable economic interests with a moral imperative for fair working conditions by arguing that equitable benefits and protections for LGBTQI workers yields higher rates of employee retention and loyalty, while providing access to their tacit knowledge of LGBTQI consumer demands. This research follows those utilizing the business case in their advocacy – namely, corporate consultants and grassroots activists – who draw on the discourse to gain access to, if not be commissioned to produce, trade conferences and industry award ceremonies, “sensitization” workshops, communication training sessions, and job placements. Conducted over ten-months from October 2018 to July 2019 in Bengaluru, fieldwork begins hours before the Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalize sodomy witnessed unprecedented efforts at corporate marketing to LGBTQI workers and consumers. By examining the experiences of business case advocates as they navigate the conditionalities that corporate clients and donors place on them, this thesis holds in tandem mechanisms of exclusion and control that subtend incorporation premised on productivity with the experiences of those who seek to strategically maneuver the normative impulses of incorporation. The research illustrates the complexity involved in processes of valuing LGBTQI, characterized by intimacy and contestation in and beyond the special economic zones where Indian corporations operate while describing the many LGBTQI actors able to extract resources from global capital to their own aims.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Rahul Rao and Vanja Hamzic
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2022 14:53
Funders: Other

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