Cite as: Shaka McGlotten, Political Aesthetics of Drag, lecture, ICI Berlin, 15 October 2014, video recording, mp4, 55:50 <>
15 Oct 2014

Political Aesthetics of Drag

By Shaka McGlotten
Drag can be a means of touching queer and other publics, or of mediating one’s economic precarity. It can function as art by other means, or by any means necessary. And like politics, drag can be a duty, a contentious pleasure, or something to dread. The talk presented drag aesthetics as an ethics, focusing specifically on the ways artists and activists use drag to respond to, or reframe, some of the pressing political crises of our times, including racism, austerity, and police and military violence, among others. It was constructed as a series of interlocking ethnographic portraits of contemporary drag across three sites, New York City, Berlin, and Israel/Palestine. These stories foregrounded some of the interlocutors’ competing desires for doing drag—for some it provides a stage from which they can articulate a radical politics, while for others it is a sensual refuge away from politics as they are ordinarily understood. Indeed, in keeping with the lecture series’ theme “Desire’s Multiplicity and Serendipity,” McGlotten showed how the desires that animate the drag personas and performances of his informants reflect a diverse array of lived conditions and political aesthetic orientations.

Shaka McGlotten, currently living and working in Berlin as a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, is Associate Professor of Media, Society, and the Arts at Purchase College-SUNY, where he teaches courses on ethnography, digital culture, and queer studies. He is the co-editor of Black Genders and Sexualities (Palgrave, 2012) and Zombie Sexuality: Essays on Sex and the Living Dead (McFarland, 2014). He has written and spoken widely about public sex, virtual worlds, gaming, and hook up apps, preoccupations that appear in his monograph, Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (SUNY Press, 2013).


ICI Berlin
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Organized by

An ICI Berlin event in collaboration with the Insitute for Queer Theory

Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:55:50
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin