‘Political Aesthetics of Drag’
Shaka McGlotten (SUNY)
Monday 17 November 2014, 5.15pm-7pm, Room G16, Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester
The Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Culture (CSSC, University of Manchester) with the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology
Drag can be a means of touching queer and other publics, or of mediating one’s economic precarity. It can function as art by other means, or by any means necessary. And like politics, drag can be a duty, a contentious pleasure, or something to dread. In the talk, I present drag aesthetics as an ethics, focusing specifically on the ways artists and activists use drag to respond to, or reframe, some of the pressing political crises of our times, including racism, austerity, and police and military violence, among others. The project is constructed as a series of interlocking ethnographic portraits of contemporary drag across three sites, New York City, Berlin, and Israel/Palestine. These stories foreground some of my interlocutors’ competing desires for doing drag—for some it provides a stage from which they can articulate a radical politics, while for others it is a sensual refuge away from politics as they are ordinarily understood. I thereby seek to show how the desires that animate the drag personas and performances of my informants reflect a diverse array of lived conditions and political aesthetic orientations.
Shaka McGlotten, currently living and working in Berlin as a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, is Associate Professor of Media, Society and Arts at Purchase College-SUNY, where he teaches courses on ethnography, digital culture and queer studies. He is co-editor of Black Genders and Sexualities (Palgrave, 2012) and Zombie Sexuality: Essays on Sex and the Living Dead (McFarland, 2014). He has written and spoken widely about public sex, virtual worlds, gaming, and hook up aps, preoccupations that appear in his monograph, Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (SUNY Press, 2013).