Decolonize Drag – Kareem Khubchandani
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.