Organized by B Camminga, Tunay Altay, Özgün Eylül İşcen, and Ruth Ramsden-Karelse

13 May 2024
ICI Berlin
In English

Recent years have marked what scholars call the drag boom: the exponential growth of drag’s mainstream popularity following the widespread visibility of drag performers on social media and the commercial success of the United States reality TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race. As the show expands to countries including the Netherlands, Thailand, Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, and more, the dominating role of RuPaul’s Drag Race has created the impression that drag has a universal standard. Post-RuPaul, mainstream audiences have come to expect normative feminine glamour; polished lip-syncing routines; and an ultimate, perhaps reassuring, ‘reveal’.

Yet such an impression fails to reflect drag’s historic and present diversity, beyond the reality TV cameras and, often, beyond the stage. From leading protests, to renouncing stigma associated with non-normative performances of gender and sexuality, to cultivating joy and defiance in the cultural spaces of ‘everynight life’, drag performers have long played vital roles in queer and trans communities. Across the globe, these cultural workers continue to navigate the persecution and praise attendant on queer aesthetics’ simultaneous criminalization and consumption. Moreover, in their full contextual complexity, practices of drag within queer and trans spaces often suggest that drag’s subversive politics may lie less in its function of troubling gender’s rigidity and more in its capacity to challenge the oppressive systems of power and attendant social inequalities that intersect with the gender binary.

In the wake of the drag boom, questions of what drag performance is and does are increasingly relevant. Such questions might lead to diverse understandings of drag, including as a queer and/or trans way of doing things, a method of critique, a form of activism, and an art form with a rich legacy of deconstructing and challenging dominant norms and systems of oppression. Focusing on multi-layered contexts of queer crossings, this symposium aims to develop critical approaches to drag that incorporate its range of uses by various marginalized groups in diverse contexts globally.

  • How does drag find forms and meanings other than gender transgression, and how does the emergence of concepts, such as drag things and drag monsters (as opposed to drag kings and queens) challenge conceptualizations of drag as always about gender?
  • How is drag informed by and in what ways does it relate to border regimes, colonialism, racism, and neoliberalism, and what happens when stories of migration, displacement, and exile inform drag, not only as an individual act but as a form of political action?
  • What is the relationship between the mass commercialization of drag and the practices of gender transgressive and queer performance beyond North America and Western Europe?
  • How does drag performance cultivate social spaces and collectivities that could address the impacts of immediate crises and prolonged neglect affecting queer and trans communities?
  • What effect has the anti-LGBTQ movement had on drag transnationally, and in contrast to gender critical and trans exclusionary analyses, how might drag be re-theorized in relation to pleasure, speculation, and experiment?
  • In relation to theorisations of drag in terms of temporality and queer nostalgia, how might drag practices reclaim the aesthetics of future-making?

The organizers welcome contributions that address these and other questions from fields including but not limited to sociology, the arts, cultural studies, post- and decolonial studies, migration studies, political theory, critical theory and philosophy, and feminist, transgender, and queer theory. And particularly encourage responses from scholars approaching this topic with a focus outside of North America and Western Europe.

Please send 300-word abstracts for 15-minute papers and a short biographical note (100-150 words) to

The submission deadline is 24 February 2024. We plan to notify applicants about proposal acceptance by 15 March 2024.

Participants with limited funding to attend the workshop can apply to receive a lump sum towards travel and accommodation costs.

Image credit: Queen of Virginity in Planet Lubunya directed by İrem Aydın, Photographer: Mayra Wallraff, 2023

Image credit © Queen of Virginity in Planet Lubunya directed by İrem Aydın, Photographer: Mayra Wallraff, 2023

Posted on 24 January 2024