Washington State University will celebrate the public launch of the Center for Arts and Humanities (CAH) with two workshops and a reception on Oct. 24. Joining the festivities will be Jon Parrish Peede, chairman for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“The center will serve as a ‘front door’ to the arts and humanities at WSU. Our goal is to nurture curiosity and encourage innovation that crosses traditional scholarly boundaries and supports the public good,” said Todd Butler, associate professor of English and CAH director.
The center will award its first two undergraduate scholarships at the reception and celebrate the work of the current cohort of eight CAH Faculty Fellows, who are pursuing projects ranging from an examination of the links between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frank Lloyd Wright to collaborations with Native American singers to preserve recordings of traditional Nez Perce songs.
Formally approved by the Board of Regents in May 2019, the center is supported by a University-wide consortium that includes the Office of Research, College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School, WSU Libraries, and the Office of the President.
On September 6, the Supreme Court of India scrapped Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, effectively decriminalising homosexuality in a judgement that quoted the gay pride anthem “I am what I am.”
Queer South Asians growing up in the United States have long had to suffer from the narrative about homosexuality being an American idea; that their queerness is a result of living in the West. While the scrapping of Section 377 has no legal impact on the South Asian diaspora in the US, some believe the striking down of this colonial norm helps queer Indians abroad convince their families that being gay is not a Western idea, since this is something that many parents seem to believe.
Nishant Shahani, professor in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Washington State University in Pullman and author of Queer Retrosexualities: The Politics of Reparative Return, credits the recent Supreme Court of India judgment for bringing LGBTQIA+ issues into public discourse, facilitating discussions on heterosexuality not being the default setting. “When I left India in 1999 for a master’s in the US, there wasn’t any public discussion on homosexuality,” he says.
“Queer South Asians in the US have to navigate both homophobia and certain structures of racism,” says Shahani, adding that queer Indians in the West are not spared from preconceived notions of India being a land of Bollywood and snake-charmers.