Desi Queers

LGBTQ+ South Asians and Cultural Belonging in Britain

November 2024 9781911723646 280pp, 10 b&w illus
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Desi Queers reveals how diasporic South Asians have shaped LGBTQ+ movements and communities in Britain, from the 1970s to the present day. Weaving the history of 1980s anti-racism with the emergence of Black LGBTQ+ and feminist coalitions, this book highlights landmark moments in British queer life and culture through South Asian lives, and illuminates British histories of colour through queer politics and creativity.

From the Gay Black Group to Haringey Council’s pioneering Lesbian and Gay Unit, desi queers were at the centre of anti-homophobic direct action in the 1980s, including the historic ‘Smash the Backlash’ demo against bigotry. This activism birthed key grassroots groups of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Shakti and Naz, whose founders and early members opened a path of creative resistance to the intersecting violence of racism and homophobia–a path of solidarity echoing through the twenty-first century.

These spaces and networks have been a refuge for people doubly marginalised in Britain–by experiences of homophobia within South Asian communities, and by the whiteness of mainstream queer scenes. Drawing on artistic creations, archives and oral history, Desi Queers celebrates rich traditions of social and cultural activism alongside stories of everyday life among Britain’s LGBTQ+ South Asians.


Churnjeet Mahn is Professor of English Literature at the University of Strathclyde. Her research focuses on experiences of racism and homophobia in travel writing and accounts of displacement. She has worked on a range of creative research projects related to post-Partition memory, and queer displacement.

Rohit K. Dasgupta is a senior lecturer in Cultural Industries at the University of Glasgow. He researches queer cultures, media and nation, and cultural industries in South Asia. He is also a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Loughborough University.

DJ Ritu is a pioneering EDI activist, international turntablist, Rough Guides contributor and BBC Radio presenter. In the 1980s, she established Shakti Disco at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre, before co-founding both the legendary Club Kali, in 1995, and the queer SWANA (South-West Asian and North African) music club Hoppa. In 2023, Ritu was awarded an MBE for services to music and broadcasting.

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