In her current research project ‘Queer Heritage-making in times of political turmoil: A transcultural approach’, Marion Wettstein studies vernacular queer approaches to cultural heritage and local traditions in Nepal, together with her project partners at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS) in the framework of the ‘Flagship Initiative Transforming Cultural Heritage’ at Heidelberg University.
In the face of mounting political and social opposition, queer communities in a variety of global
contexts increasingly seek to legitimize their existence by referencing instances of gender and sexual
diversity in historical and contemporary religious and cultural sources. In South and Southeast Asia,
such aims to reclaim and rework (in)tangible heritage are articulated through for example the
identification of gender-nonconforming characters within canonical texts, stories, and religious
scriptures as well as non-heteronormative performative and artistic practices that speak to local or
national identities. The research tandem applies a transcultural lens to these developments in order
to examine the ways in which ‘queer heritage’ is referenced, imagined, appropriated, and performed
in order to make claims about (collective) identities by different stakeholders.
This project draws on ethnographic case studies among queer communities in Nepal and Indonesia
as well as their engagements with narratives and practices concerning religious and cultural heritage
in the Indian context. The team will combine approaches from philology, history, and anthropology
as well as novel research methods that speak to the artistic and activist practices of involved
communities, such as online ethnography, drawing, and performative and artistic collaborative
Aside from these research activities, the team will facilitate two international workshops and a joint
publication in order to bring together scholars, activists, and artists working in and on different
South and Southeast contexts.