Performing the Sacred: Ethnographies of Transgender Activism in the Kinnar Akhāṛā

Principal researcher: Daniela Bevilacqua

Research group: Governance, Policies and Livelihoods


LGBT+ | Hinduism | Religious Feminism | Sanskritization

Funding Institution

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia



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This project investigates the Kinnar Akhāṛā (KA), a new religious Hindu order of transwomen that stems from the religiously syncretic hijṛā tradition but is organised on the model of traditional ascetic orders. Its establishment challenges the patriarchal Hindu religious world but also puts into question the Islamic legacy of the hijṛā traditions. The huge success enjoyed by the KA in the last major Hindu religious festivals brought much visibility to the movement influencing power dynamics that go beyond the religious sphere since the group is involved in activities for gender equality. The Project aims to investigate how Kinnars’ agency and performativity operate in the fields of asceticism, religion and social activism, also exploring how gender, local and global dynamics may lead those considered marginal to subvert cultural and social structures. The Project proposes a theoretical framework comprised of Religious Feminism theory and the new theory of Selective Sanskritization.