Presentation Title

From ‘reading’ to ‘judging’: Linguistic performativity of judging and hosting in a regional drag competition

Presenter Name

Chris Vanderstouwe

Presenter Title/Affiliation

Boise State University

Start Date

23-5-2021 1:30 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

RuPaul’s Drag Race has popularized the phrase “reading is fundamental,” referring to ‘reading’ a drag sense where drag queens perform ritual insults toward another with a goal of humor and bonding. This ritual, predominantly linguistic in nature, has its roots in ballroom culture among trans and queer people of color, but has expanded more broadly into many facets of the drag world, in part due to the mainstreaming of drag culture through shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. While some aspects of reading are currently being examined in other presentations linked to this research, little if any work has been done with a focus on the ways that judging and banter take place in similar contexts. Expanding on active research coming from a large ethnographic project on drag language and performativity in a local US drag community, this presentation shifts focus from ‘reading’ between queens to the linguistic performativity and production of expertise among the judges and hosts of the town’s local Drag Superstar competition. This competition, structured loosely on RuPaul’s Drag Race, features weekly competitions with challenges and tasks that lead to eliminations of contestants until a finale week where a winner is crowned. In the context of this ethnographic setting, local performers and previous competition winners are placed into positions of judge and host during the season being studied. These participants of the wider competition structure connect their own experience and positionality in relation to the competition format, as well as wider understandings of drag outside the local context. I focus here on the language used by the panel of judges, as well as the host of the competition, as they exhibit strategies to claim expertise, provide critical feedback, and connect with the broader audience as well as the competitors in their commentary and responses to performances and other on-stage interactions.

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May 23rd, 1:30 PM May 23rd, 2:00 PM

From ‘reading’ to ‘judging’: Linguistic performativity of judging and hosting in a regional drag competition

RuPaul’s Drag Race has popularized the phrase “reading is fundamental,” referring to ‘reading’ a drag sense where drag queens perform ritual insults toward another with a goal of humor and bonding. This ritual, predominantly linguistic in nature, has its roots in ballroom culture among trans and queer people of color, but has expanded more broadly into many facets of the drag world, in part due to the mainstreaming of drag culture through shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. While some aspects of reading are currently being examined in other presentations linked to this research, little if any work has been done with a focus on the ways that judging and banter take place in similar contexts. Expanding on active research coming from a large ethnographic project on drag language and performativity in a local US drag community, this presentation shifts focus from ‘reading’ between queens to the linguistic performativity and production of expertise among the judges and hosts of the town’s local Drag Superstar competition. This competition, structured loosely on RuPaul’s Drag Race, features weekly competitions with challenges and tasks that lead to eliminations of contestants until a finale week where a winner is crowned. In the context of this ethnographic setting, local performers and previous competition winners are placed into positions of judge and host during the season being studied. These participants of the wider competition structure connect their own experience and positionality in relation to the competition format, as well as wider understandings of drag outside the local context. I focus here on the language used by the panel of judges, as well as the host of the competition, as they exhibit strategies to claim expertise, provide critical feedback, and connect with the broader audience as well as the competitors in their commentary and responses to performances and other on-stage interactions.

https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/lavlang/2021/sunday/23