Decolonize Drag

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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.

About the Author

Kareem Khubchandani is an associate professor in the department of theater, dance, and performance studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife, co-editor of Queer Nightlife and editor of the TPQ special issue Critical Aunty Studies. His writing appears in Scholar and Feminist Online, Transgender Studies Quarterly, SAMAJ, South Asia, Journal of Asian American Studies, and the Velvet Light Trap. Khubchandani performs in drag as LaWhore Vagistan who interweaves storytelling, standup comedy, body art, theater, and digital media.

Bhakti Shringarpure is a writer, academic and founding editor of Warscapes magazine. She is the author of Cold War Assemblages: Decolonization to Digital and a regular contributor to The Los Angeles Review of Books and Africa is a Country. She currently runs the Radical Books Collective which pushes for an alternative, inclusive and non-commercial approach to books and reading.

"Who knew a critique of the political economy of drag could be so fun? Every chapter packs a pun(ch)! This multi-layered analysis is timely, worldmaking, and most importantly--glamorous."
--Alok Vaid-Menon, writer and performance artist


"LaWhore Vagistan is everyone's favorite South Asian drag academic auntie. She brings the nightclub to the classroom and vice-versa."


"Sassy and wicked smart, Decolonize Drag is essential reading for those seeking to understand the global and historical expanse of drag performance as well as the current anti-drag furor in the U.S. Kareem Khubchandani demonstrates how the intersections of drag and colonialism, left uninterrogated, risk resuturing rather than destabilizing gender binaries. Ultimately, though, this book is an invitation to revel in the unlimited joys of non-binary world making that drag can offer."
--Jasbir Puar, author of The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability and Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times


"We've needed this book . . . Khubchandani describes legendary drag acts, interweaves personal experiences, and formulates unflinching critiques of systemic inequalities that shape how all drag is received . . . An absolute must-read for fans, practitioners, and scholars of drag alike."
--Sasha Velour, American drag queen, artist, actor, and stage and television producer


Publisher: OR Books
Pub date: November 14, 2023
200 pages
Format: Paperback