Presentation Title

'The library is open’: Pragmatic performativity and drag queen identity in RuPaul’s Drag Race

Presenter Title/Affiliation

U. North Carolina, Wilmington

Start Date

23-5-2021 2:00 PM

Event Name

Panel discussion

Panel Number

23

Panel Chair Name

Eric Louis Russell

Zoom URL to Join

https://ciis.zoom.us/j/98483138299

Zoom Meeting ID

984 8313 8299

Abstract

The queer art form of drag performance is one that has been traditionally marginalized, but with the growing popularity of reality competition television shows, such as RuPaul’s Drag Race (RDR), drag performance has become a part of mainstream popular culture. Since RDR began airing in 2009, spectators have witnessed the different types of verbal interactions between drag queens as the contestants compete to be crowned the top queen; competition often involves linguistic and verbal performance, in addition to visual and embodied displays. In particular, the drag queens of RDR often perform their identities through various pragmatic stylizations of critique, including “reading” each other, “throwing shade,” and verbally attacking one another. While similar in that these stylizations function as face-threatening acts (FTAs) (Brown and Levinson, 1987), drag queens interpret these various linguistic practices as categorically different, with the perceived performance and interpretation of such practices being directly linked to successful queer artistic expression in this community. Drawing from Barrett’s (2017) discussions of indexicality and identity in drag communities, in this poster, we address a gap in the current research on the pragmatics of drag performance art, and particularly, on the sociolinguistics of drag as it has entered popular mainstream culture. To this end, we examine FTAs from 25 episodes of Season 11 of RDR. Informed by interactional sociolinguistics, pragmatics, and queer theory, we use discourse analysis to analyze the differences among these nuanced FTAs. We then classify FTAs as identity performances along a discursive and indexical continuum, distinguishing between what is perceived as being a harmless or playful speech act, a negative but non-face-threatening speech act, and a deliberately face-threatening speech act, and what is considered skilled, successful, and less successful drag performances. Ultimately, we argue that the differences in these FTAs are essential to the linguistic repertoire of drag queens and to their perceived discursive success as drag artists.

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May 23rd, 2:00 PM May 23rd, 2:30 PM

'The library is open’: Pragmatic performativity and drag queen identity in RuPaul’s Drag Race

The queer art form of drag performance is one that has been traditionally marginalized, but with the growing popularity of reality competition television shows, such as RuPaul’s Drag Race (RDR), drag performance has become a part of mainstream popular culture. Since RDR began airing in 2009, spectators have witnessed the different types of verbal interactions between drag queens as the contestants compete to be crowned the top queen; competition often involves linguistic and verbal performance, in addition to visual and embodied displays. In particular, the drag queens of RDR often perform their identities through various pragmatic stylizations of critique, including “reading” each other, “throwing shade,” and verbally attacking one another. While similar in that these stylizations function as face-threatening acts (FTAs) (Brown and Levinson, 1987), drag queens interpret these various linguistic practices as categorically different, with the perceived performance and interpretation of such practices being directly linked to successful queer artistic expression in this community. Drawing from Barrett’s (2017) discussions of indexicality and identity in drag communities, in this poster, we address a gap in the current research on the pragmatics of drag performance art, and particularly, on the sociolinguistics of drag as it has entered popular mainstream culture. To this end, we examine FTAs from 25 episodes of Season 11 of RDR. Informed by interactional sociolinguistics, pragmatics, and queer theory, we use discourse analysis to analyze the differences among these nuanced FTAs. We then classify FTAs as identity performances along a discursive and indexical continuum, distinguishing between what is perceived as being a harmless or playful speech act, a negative but non-face-threatening speech act, and a deliberately face-threatening speech act, and what is considered skilled, successful, and less successful drag performances. Ultimately, we argue that the differences in these FTAs are essential to the linguistic repertoire of drag queens and to their perceived discursive success as drag artists.

https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/lavlang/2021/sunday/22