On the 29th of October 2022, the Dialogue Box organized a virtual event to commemorate the launch of the first edition of its magazine, Your Voice. The event saw scholars and academicians from all across the globe, from Sussex to Ahmedabad, come together to unfold not just the start of Dialogue Box’s venture but to also start important discussions that shroud our everyday world. The event started with personal introductions of all attendees; with starkly different research foci and starkly different research backgrounds, the event truly was witness to how academia brings together different subjectivities that are threaded together through reflections on the world around. What followed this series of introductions was overall introductions to the write-ups, reflections by individual contributors to the edition on their pieces, and further conversations on them that followed from all the attendees.
The first contributor to take over the floor was Dheeraj Kumar. Dheeraj is a fashion designer turned photographer and artist, and his art often takes the male body as the canvas to portray how gender conventions restrict subjectivities. His work brings important issues concerning the queer community forward, and his contribution to the Magazine is titled ‘Isolation’. It deals with the literal isolation that the world over was exposed to, courtesy of the pandemic-induced quarantine. He discussed how the pandemic had made him curate his essay, writing about how people tend to get trapped in this world, both literally and metaphorically. Kumar’s essay also showcases a number of snapshots that convey different moods of a person. He reflected on the importance of anonymity when dealing with topics as sensitive as one’s sexuality, which is why all the images his essay included were of a headless man. The man here sits inside a cupboard that camouflages with the color of the skin but also confines him, becoming a metaphor for the entrapment. The idea behind this, Dheeraj notes, is to show how stuck and how stripped of all agency humans were during the pandemic. Conversations and discussions also followed on Dheeraj’s other works, which include a photo series featuring masks to portray how identities remain masked in the world today; masks, on the other hand, make it more convenient for the photos to be shared over social media since it conceals the subject’s identities, and negates the chances of them being flagged for vulgarity. These conversations also brought up questions about artistic freedom, and whether or not adjusting perspectives for art to become more acceptable crucially restricts an artist’s imagination, but also becomes imperative to put forth one’s messages across.
The second contributors to speak about their work were Ragi Gupta and Raghavi. Ragi’s works mostly explore ideas of gender, media, and mental health, through the medium of poetry and storytelling, while Raghavi aspires to be a lawyer, and is a final-year student at Delhi University. Their piece ‘The Transness of Intimacy and Desires: Can You Love Me Like This Now?’, Ragi and Raghavi say, was more like a conversation between the two, that later took the form of this essay. The duo discussed the theme their essay is based on, which primarily is intimacy. The discussion brought to the forefront important questions of gender expectations, and the fact that society coerces one into being confined to the male/female identity binaries. But what if one lies somewhere in the middle? What if one does not fit into the conventional brackets? Ragi and Raghavi’s reflections also kickstarted important conversations about the biological issues non-binary people face, and the rigidity prevalent in the country that fails to permit one from complete self-expression. Furthermore, the authors also talked about the overly sexualized female bodies and how perceptions towards the different genders are constructed by different agents: the capitalist market, the media, and the entire set of social institutions that surround us every day. These agents work in tandem, to finally form a system that alienates a person from themselves.
The third and final contributor to discuss their work was Sanjana Choudhary. Sanjana is a 19-year-old based out of Delhi, who aspires to be a Journalist-Poet. Her piece for the magazine is called ‘Fluidity’, and beautifully portrays how love does not merely stand behind the concealment of gender. Through her careful metaphorization, Sanjana talks of identities and their fluidity, and how genders cannot be confined to a box created by society19-year-old. Those genders that lie beyond the binary birthed by society are eternal, and one’s idea of oneself is enough definition of their identity is what ‘Fluidity’ puts across.
The magazine contains two other write-ups – ‘The Contradictory Approaches to Female Sexuality’ by Sandhya Kerketta, a sociologist currently pursuing Ph.D. at the University of Sussex, and ‘Does India need ‘Comprehensive Sexuality Education’?’ by Subhashree Pattanayak, a final year student of Master of Education at the West Bengal University of Teachers’ Training Education, Planning and Administration (WBUTTEPA). While the two authors could not join in for the event, The Dialogue Box looks forward to hearing their thoughts on their write-ups at the events in the day to come. The event ended with a thank you note for all who were in attendance, along with discussions on how one could access the magazine both online and offline and how anyone interested could get in touch to contribute to the publications in the coming days.