Uta Schirmer: On the Performativity of Drag as Social Practice

The discussion of drag is central to Judith Butler's notion of gender performativity. Thus, though drawing notably on Austinian speech act theory, she develops her concept of performativity also with regard to bodily performance practices. Yet, I want to argue in my paper, she conceives of drag – with its potential to expose the performative character of all gender displays – as a figure of critique of hegemonic norms, rather than as a contextualized social practice.
Based on empirical research among the German drag king scene, I will suggest that a decidedly praxeological understanding of performativity, in contrast, allows for the reconstruction of the specific practical sense of ‘doing drag’ and of the intrinsic logic of alternative gender realities emerging from this practice. I will conclude by asking for the limits of praxeological approaches when it comes to exploring how the examined subcultural practices are conditioned by (and maybe part of) broader societal change such as neoliberal transformations of modes of subjectivization.