Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 48, November 2022

Senthorun Sunil Raj

Feeling Queer Jurisprudence: Injury, Intimacy, Identity

London: Routledge, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-8153-5650-9 (hbk), xii + 155 pp.

reviewed by Shazia Riaz Dar and Sobia Bano

Through the lens of queer theory and in-depth case analysis of LGBT community from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, Senthorun Sunil Raj, in his book Feeling Queer: Jurisprudence Injury, Intimacy, Identity, analytically addressees how emotions hold an inevitable place in progressive laws as well as in administrative and political violence for the LGBT community. The book is divided into six chapters. Each of the chapters represents a theme that tells how homophobic injuries mimic the expression of nonconforming intimacies and identities through progressive law enactments.

The introductory chapter lays the foundation of this book by foregrounding how legislative measures for same sex individuals have become a sensational topic. So, it serves as a progressive story in LGBT law reform movements. Raj also highlights the ways in which legal doctrines serve the interests of powerful groups which are skeptical about recognising the emotions of a queer community, Furthermore, the legislative acts reflect emotions as cultural expressions in terms of socio-legal norms which need to be deconstructed to identify the emotions of LGBT individuals who are culturally contingent. Raj also demands that the state's intervention in LGBT lives through laws be limited. This chapter suggested that legal terms should inculcate real emotions to identify LGBT injury, intimacy and identity.

In line with this theme, in Chapter 2 Raj introduced disgust or strong disapproval for members of the LGBT community from society. Disgust is described as an analytical register that highlights the ways in which social disapproval of homosexuality is depicted in the case studies which are utilised to show queer intimacies as well as identities of members of the queer community. In line with this, homosexuality is considered to be disgusting to human nature and a queer deviation from the natural order as reflected through the case studies in this chapter. It is also denoted as criminal buggery which delineates sadomasochism as lustful and violent. Raj also discussed the struggles of homosexual activists who confronted various types of social disgust in order to support decriminalisation. The feeling of disgust is reflected through the jurisprudential enactments in various cases of criminal forms of homosexuality which in turn introject injury, intimacy and identity into the said community. This judicial interpretation is not related to actual harm but is focused on the court's explanation of dangers which injure society. Thus, the legal and progressive movement eclipses the identification of LGBT people by drawing boundaries between public and private spaces. But the juridical disgust could not measure that the queer act causes pleasure. Precisely, Chapter 2 shows how legislation has undertaken to explore the damages of criminalising homosexuality and promoted the freedom of queer couples. It also threw light on how jurisprudential acts brought punishments for homophobes which in turn caused threat to queer identities. The term homophobic here is described as the expression of violent acts against the subordinated groups including LGBT people.

Likewise, Chapter 3 foregrounded the ways in which the legislation promoted hate towards the LGBT community. The chapter outlines a discussion on hate with reference to criminal and civil perspectives. The emotion of hate refers to the extreme level of disapproval for a person, object or a group or a kind of objection to what Raj called 'sexually others' (52). In the context of the LGBT community, hate is a fear which causes them to manage their distinctness in public places and confine themselves to isolated spaces to minimise the risks to their lives.

Such homophobic violent acts allow Raj to propose the need for hate crimes to be catered for within criminal law. Consequently, Raj observed a remarkable shift in the positioning of LGBT people in criminal law to fill the void which reflects the lack of the state's interest in gender equality. Also measures to criminalise physical injuries suffered because of a victim's gender identity have been taken. The identification of hate crimes in law involves numerous procedures both statistical and technical which cause delays in these enactments.

Thus, this study of emotions serves as the niche for the legal identification of LGBT people's injuries. For example, in the case study of Teena, Raj invites scholars to measure the contrast between transgender and homophobe's injuries and identities which led to the formation of legal acts for the protection of victims. Also, the case study of Teena showed that the perpetrators were punished for committing a murder not for a sexual assault or 'an aggressive action of violence' (59). Through these case studies, Raj reveals the ways in which LGBT victims and homophobes are constructed with pity and violence respectively. So, the LGBT minority could be protected from homophobes through legal remedies by punishing those who abuse LGBT people and hence legislation could act 'as [an] antidote to violence' (66).

In the fourth chapter, Raj discussed the emotion of anger which causes harm within the queer community. He defined anger analytically as the inner state of individuals which challenges the marginalszation of queer intimacies and identities of the LGBT community which are considered deviant from existing as well as interlocking cultural, socio-political and religious structures. The chapter further explores the emotion of anger through case analysis where Raj articulates how the perceived discrimination pushes police to invade the personal spaces of queer people.

The chapter also shed light on the fact that anger is an expression of pain for members of the queer community, and that pain demands a new vision of social justice. Raj suggested that anger could also be used to measure the incidents of injuries caused by heterosexuals. Anger triggered this marginalised section of society to claim inclusion in relevant social structures by demanding that gender differences which challenge heteronormativity, be overlooked. The legislative enactments feature exclusion as an impetus to accrue the injury which gives rise to the angry insistence for their inclusion in public spaces. In line with this, 'expressive association' dogma was utilised to turn down the inclusion of LGBT people into which was ignored by the supreme court of the USA by stating that meritorious features rather than discriminatory stereotypes should be the scale of measurement for marginalised people (81). Thus, the study of emotion crystalises the anger of the LGBT community against the unequal treatment its members experience because they are a subordinated section of society. Further, Raj's analysis of anger highlighted that homosexuals are assumed deviant from religious aspects which might serve as a niche through which scholars and activists strive for a 'proper balance' in basic human rights (89).

Furthermore, anger put heterosexuals in fear, which, according to Raj, serves as an essential impetus for members of the LGBT community to find protection in asylums. Raj elaborated on fear by discussing this emotion with reference to its spatial and temporal assumptions. For example, LGBT people seek asylum to protect themselves from numerous types of discriminatory behaviour including rape, murder etc. on the basis of their sexual orientation. While fear is a central element for seeking asylum, legislative measures reflect fear in different ways by asking same-sex people to cover up their queer identities and to confine their visibility. So, this chapter helps to identify and understand how the law provides ways to protect intimacy as well as the identity of LGBT community members. Through this chapter, Raj also highlighted how fear of marginalised people elicited legal institutions to cast aside the legitimate examinations which are required to identify discrete individuals. Thus, Raj foregrounded the failure of developing legal acts for LGBT people's safety in order to satisfy the conservative norms of powerful groups.

The last chapter of the book sheds light on the positive emotion that is love. Raj analyses the ways in which jurisdictions identify love as a cure for the injuries caused by an imbalance in relationships. The author defined love beautifully by stating that love is a kind of intensified attachment which requires the matrimonial identification of a 'good life' that in turn assures the security of individuals. This chapter inculcates the case studies of LGBT people which showcase how legislations could protect liberty and equality to ensure the social inclusion of this marginalised community. This would in turn protect them from more injuries resulting from unequal and discriminatory treatment.

To conclude, Raj navigates multiple structures of emotions (anger, hate, love etc.) which the LGBT community agonised about because of their experiences of inequality and injustice. He also highlights the emotions that serve as driving forces that provoke heterosexual anger and produce reactions against the queer community.

Through the discussion of various case studies, Raj brought forth the ways that the study of emotions in law helps the analysis of the emotional arrangements of 'LGBT injury, intimacy and identity and sustain socio-legal norms that inhibit the recognition of queer intimacies and identities' (6).


Published with the support of Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
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Last modified: 3 Dec. 2022 1459