Kalle Westerling is a performance scholar and historian. His doctoral research focused on itinerant drag performers around New York and along the Eastern Seaboard in the 1930s as part of a collective art form that brought queerness with them to towns and cities around the area. He has also written on topics ranging from queer indie wrestlers, boylesque and male-identified strippers in neo-burlesque, and the influence of RuPaul’s Drag Race on the livelihood and aesthetics of contemporary New York City drag queens.
In Kristoffer Díaz’s widely celebrated and award-winning The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, audiences are double-whammied with an introduction to the world of professional wrestling and a critique of American neoliberal capitalism. The ring, central to Chad Deity’s action, belongs to the Wrestling, operated by Everett K. Olson, the white, racist boss who is mostly interested in capitalizing on racial stereotypes. The portrayal of wrestling in Chad Deity reminds us of Althusser’s description of the Ideological State Apparatus as a repressive power apparatus. This chapter offers a few ways that the queer wrestling promotions take up the disidentificatory aesthetic articulated in Chad Deity, and should be seen as a bourgeoning network of actors building an infrastructure of a new social world that offers minoritarian subjects a “space to situate in history and thus seize social agency,” to again borrow a formulation from José Esteban Muñoz.
Race for the Money: The Influence of RuPaul's Drag Race on the Livelihood and Aesthetics of New York City's Drag Culture
The Influence of RuPaul’s Drag Race on the Livelihood and Aesthetics ofNew York City’s Drag CultureKalle Westerling In 1996, cultural critic Julian Fleischer described New York City’s (NYC) drag scene as a unique cultural environment, different and distant from that of female impersonation prevalent in other parts of the country (Fleischer, 1996) . In large parts, that culture had been shaped by RuPaul and her arrival in Manhattan’s drag scene. With the increasing commercial and cultural success of the television show RuPaul’s Drag Race, that environment reached an international audience. Over the past decade of Drag Race on television, I have seen drag shows several nights per week and had countless conversations with performers, witnessing first-hand a changing local culture.
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