by Kareem Khubchandani, Edited by Bhakti Shringarpure
Although imagined as a queer subcultural practice, drag seems to be everywhere we look: from AI filters on TikTok to brunchtime entertainment, from state legislations to political rallies. Yet as drag enters the mainstream--largely due to the intense, global popularity of reality TV competition RuPaul's Drag Race--some kinds of gender-based performance fall out of the purview of what we (could) call drag.
Decolonize Drag details the ways that gender is used as a form of colonial governance to eliminate various types of expression, and tracks how contemporary drag, including that on Drag Race, both replicates and disrupts these institutional hierarchies. This book focuses on several gender performers that resist and laugh at colonial projects through their aesthetic practices. It also features the voice of Khubchandani's drag alter ego, judgmental South Asian aunty LaWhore Vagistan. From the firsthand perspective of a drag artist, LaWhore describes encounters with depoliticized versions of drag that leave her disappointed and perplexed, and prompts Khubchandani for context and analysis.
Their dynamic sets the tone for the book, investigating how drag--and gender more broadly--has been privatized and delimited so that it's only available to certain people. Decolonize Drag argues for more abundance in and access to fashioning gender, and considers how drag changes meaning and efficacy as it shifts across geographies.
"We've needed this book... Khubchandani describes legendary drag acts, interweaves personal experiences, and formulates unflinching critiques of systemic inequalities that shape how all drag is received... An absolute must-read for fans, practitioners, and scholars of drag alike." -- Sasha Velour, winner of Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race and author of The Big Reveal: An Illustrated Manifesto of Drag
"Who knew a critique of the political economy of drag could be so fun? Every chapter packs a pun(ch)! This multi-layered analysis is timely, worldmaking, and most importantly--glamorous." -- Alok Vaid-Menon, poet, artist, comedian, fashion icon, and author of Beyond the Gender Binary
About the Contributors:
Kareem Khubchandani is an associate professor in the department of theater, dance, and performance studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife, co-editor of Queer Nightlife and editor of the TPQ special issue Critical Aunty Studies. His writing appears in Scholar and Feminist Online, Transgender Studies Quarterly, SAMAJ, South Asia, Journal of Asian American Studies, and the Velvet Light Trap. Khubchandani performs in drag as LaWhore Vagistan who interweaves storytelling, standup comedy, body art, theater, and digital media.
Bhakti Shringarpure is a writer, academic and founding editor of Warscapes magazine. She is the author of Cold War Assemblages: Decolonization to Digital and a regular contributor to The Los Angeles Review of Books and Africa is a Country. She currently runs the Radical Books Collective which pushes for an alternative, inclusive and non-commercial approach to books and reading.