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Dis/patches from the Foreign Office - Part 3

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 3

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 3

In dis/patches from the Foreign Office, Sajdeep Soomal explores newspaper articles, legal cases, and other ephemera stored in the CLGA’s international collection.

newspaper clipping

Issue 3

Becoming Nagmoti

Rafiq is exceptional in Jan Becker’s eyes: she is a peacock among pigeons. If you listen to Punjabi bhangra, you should know that the moorni (peacock) is a popular character in the subcontinent. Cropping up in folktales, stories and poems, the peacock has been long appreciated for its colour, gate and eyelike markings on its feathers that promise to ward off the evil eye. In 1963, the peacock was declared the official bird of India because of its ubiquity across the new postcolonial nation. But in the Euro-American imagination, the peacock remains a rare beauty while domestic pigeons – once housed in ornate dovecotes across Europe – have turned into feral pigeons, city pigeons, street pigeons – nuisance birds that signify the dirtiness of a city. Becker inadvertently mobilizes longstanding racist colonial tropes in his catchy title: Rafiq becomes the exotic beauty in a dirty, unclean land overrun by natives. Yet despite her beauty, Becker finds Rafiq’s behaviour innocent and almost childlike if not weird, it is another instance of the failed modernity of the third world. Becker – who is transitioning herself – also points out that estrogen shots have not yet arrived in the India economy. In many ways, we can sense how the persistence of colonial capitalism impedes the possibility for global trans solidarity, for an equal field to transition into the future.

Taking a closer look at the text, we learn that Rafiq has another name: Nagmoti. Becker

explains that in Hindi, Nagmoti means “big snake.” I wonder what Nagmoti would think of being called a moorni. In 1999, there was no place for hijras in the secular nation. Like the snake, hijras belonged to the underworld of 1990s Indian society. As the hijra rights movement gains tractions across the subcontinent, it is possible to imagine Nagmoti becoming the national moorni of India. But knowing that Nagmoti was publicly Hindu because “it was better for business” in her hometown outside of Ahmedabad, I think the worst. Witnessing the parallel rise of Hindu fundamentalism over the past twenty years in Gujarat and across India, I wonder if Nagmoti made it through the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. I wonder if she still listens to Madonna. I wonder if the holographic Qur’anic sticker in her room still glitters.

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Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 3

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 3

In dis/patches from the Foreign Office, Sajdeep Soomal explores newspaper articles, legal cases, and other ephemera stored in the CLGA’s international collection.

newspaper clipping

Issue 3

Becoming Nagmoti

Rafiq is exceptional in Jan Becker’s eyes: she is a peacock among pigeons. If you listen to Punjabi bhangra, you should know that the moorni (peacock) is a popular character in the subcontinent. Cropping up in folktales, stories and poems, the peacock has been long appreciated for its colour, gate and eyelike markings on its feathers that promise to ward off the evil eye. In 1963, the peacock was declared the official bird of India because of its ubiquity across the new postcolonial nation. But in the Euro-American imagination, the peacock remains a rare beauty while domestic pigeons – once housed in ornate dovecotes across Europe – have turned into feral pigeons, city pigeons, street pigeons – nuisance birds that signify the dirtiness of a city. Becker inadvertently mobilizes longstanding racist colonial tropes in his catchy title: Rafiq becomes the exotic beauty in a dirty, unclean land overrun by natives. Yet despite her beauty, Becker finds Rafiq’s behaviour innocent and almost childlike if not weird, it is another instance of the failed modernity of the third world. Becker – who is transitioning herself – also points out that estrogen shots have not yet arrived in the India economy. In many ways, we can sense how the persistence of colonial capitalism impedes the possibility for global trans solidarity, for an equal field to transition into the future.

Taking a closer look at the text, we learn that Rafiq has another name: Nagmoti. Becker

explains that in Hindi, Nagmoti means “big snake.” I wonder what Nagmoti would think of being called a moorni. In 1999, there was no place for hijras in the secular nation. Like the snake, hijras belonged to the underworld of 1990s Indian society. As the hijra rights movement gains tractions across the subcontinent, it is possible to imagine Nagmoti becoming the national moorni of India. But knowing that Nagmoti was publicly Hindu because “it was better for business” in her hometown outside of Ahmedabad, I think the worst. Witnessing the parallel rise of Hindu fundamentalism over the past twenty years in Gujarat and across India, I wonder if Nagmoti made it through the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. I wonder if she still listens to Madonna. I wonder if the holographic Qur’anic sticker in her room still glitters.

Leave a reply

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CONSTRUCTION NOTICE:

As we continue our efforts to make the CLGA more accessible, we are now renovating the front of the house to add a ramp to the front entrance. The exterior construction started Monday, September 17, 2018 and will continue until late November. The first steps will be working to fence off the tree at the front of the house. Please note that there will not be any construction work done during public service hours. Should there be any disruptions affecting our access to the front door and/or work in the house during this process, we will post a notice as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we try to make the CLGA more accessible to all. If you have any questions/concerns, please contact the Executive Director, Raegan Swanson, at executivedirector@clga.ca

Update – Sep 27, 2018: The front door is currently not accessible due to construction. Please use the back door until further notice.


The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives is located on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

The CLGA strives to gather the stories of the unheard and silenced voices of the 2SLGBTQ+ first peoples of this land. We acknowledge that some stories have already been lost, and we aim to ensure that those that remain and those that are to come are preserved for the future.