This chapter investigates the historical conjunctures through which Antarang, India’s first “sex museum,” was inaugurated in Mumbai’s red-light district, Kamathipura, in 2002. The museum catered to a varied clientele, including sex workers, their clients, and college students, but closed five years later, under the pretext of its relocation. The author argues that Antarang functioned as a hybrid site combining the governmental imperative of preventing HIV transmission among sexually-marginalized populations and the curator’s normative liberal goals of providing mainstream audiences with scientific sex education. Tracking sex education debates, the author contends that the museum’s precarious existence between the imperatives of public health and liberal activism illuminates the relationships between state, civil society, and political society in post-liberalization India, with Antarang operating as a contact zone for the negotiation of these relationships.
While interrogating the curator’s aspirations to fashion a modern sexual subject through a scientific idiom informed by national culture, Sequeira shows that failure marked this project, highlighting its premature closure due to state neglect. He suggests that this failure was a function of spatial segregation in urban India that mapped onto the governmental segregation of different groups such as sex workers and the clients who frequent them.