Susan Hawthorne


In this essay, I reflect on my experience at the Mumbai World Social Forum in 2004. I begin with a discussion of silence as methodology in research with, by and about lesbians. I examine the silence around lesbian politics as well as the silences between lesbian activists and those they encounter in discussion, political activism and research settings. I explore some of the differences and similarities between Australia and India both within the mainstream culture and in the freedoms or otherwise of lesbians. I then go on to describe the workshop I organized for the Mumbai World Social Forum on “Torture of lesbians: what can be done?” in which a number of politically silencing factors come into play. I investigate the ramifications of this session in terms of the marginalization of lesbians at the World Social Forums and the implications for future Forums.

The poem that accompanies the essay is extracted from “India Sutra,” a long poem that arose out of my attendance at the Mumbai World Social Forum and my subsequent travels in India with two lesbians, one of whom was born in India.


See accompanying poem: India Sutra

Author Biography

Susan Hawthorne is a Research Associate at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia. She has a Ph.D. in Political Science and Women’s Studies from the University of Melbourne. For the last four years, she has been researching the torture of lesbians and has presented her work to a wide range of fora. She has published in Signs, Journal of Hate Studies, Women’s Studies International Forum, Women’s Studies Quarterly, NWSA Journal, Canadian Women’s Studies and elsewhere. She is the author of five books and (co-) editor of ten anthologies. Among her books are The Butterfly Effect (poetry, 2005), Wild Politics: Feminism, Globalisation and Bio/diversity (2002), co-editor with Bronwyn Winter of September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives (2002), co-editor with Renate Klein of CyberFeminism: Connectivity, Critique and Creativity (1999). She is also a novelist, aerialist, and Publisher at Spinifex Press.