Notes on Pride

Trust No Aunty: Kareem Khubchandani's Critical Aunty Studies

June 14th, 2021

Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar

[Simon and Schuster 2017]

"Aunties complicate the shape of kinship" (Kareem Khubchandani, Critical Aunty Studies)
"Aunties, fictional or real, have flown under the radar of critical scholarship. Though aunty is understudied, she herself is a studious figure: observant to a fault, experienced in her age, and (panoptically) watchful over her wards" (Kareem Khubchandani, Critical Aunty Studies)
“Critical Aunty Studies,” draws from the aunty as a cypher of criticism—her performances both land and incite critique. In her incarnation as the opinionated and judgmental grand dame, she takes no bullshit, defiantly lays bare her thoughts, and perhaps even basks in the precision of her cuts. But her critical tongue draws the ire of a generation that doesn’t see eye to eye with her, and #thanksgivingclapbacks read aunty’s double standards for filth. To bring scholarly attention to aunty is “critical” too because it is urgent; she requires us to take seriously inter- and intra-generational knowledge and culture-making, to scramble the study of chosen family and queer kinship that has implicitly construed family as already nuclear, and to untether (psycho)analysis from the figure of the mother" (Kareem Khubchandani, Critical Aunty Studies)
“I have queer politics because of my aunties. I understand the perils of heteronormativity and gender inequality because I have spent so many Saturday afternoons listening to them. They talked about meager allowances from their husbands. About manipulative in-laws. Affairs. Possible entrepreneurial ventures that wouldn’t occlude their husband’s status as breadwinner. Sometimes they just cried in each other’s company. I witnessed that too.” (Kareem Khubchandani, Aunty Fever: A Queer Impression,” 203)

Kareem Khubchandani professes, “Aunties complicate the shape of kinship.” They are often not the central players but their shade, gossip, criticism, and even the sucking of their teeth in disapproval of your romantic, professional, and sartorial choices are subtle reminders of the ways trouble us. They judge us for our choices. They call us out. Aunties are critique embodied. Critical Aunty Studies is a virtual symposium composed of about five hours of talks, performances, presentations, and art reflecting on the many interpretations, experiences, and understandings of aunties. In curating this material, the presenters invite us to think about not just aunties as another manifestation of heterosexual kinship. Instead, Aunties are also sites for thinking about the queer possibilities of kinship. Extending ideas of queer family beyond nuclear kin or chosen family, Aunties teach us about the small pockets of resistance within ostensibly patriarchal relationships. Their criticisms are not just trouble, as Khubchandani instructs us, they are also slight glimmers of possibility. Their labors, their aesthetics, their sass, invite us to think about the ways people critically and creatively inhabit normative institutions. For more check out to see all of the videos and more!