1. J. L. Austin’s concept of “performative” language—that is, a speech act that doesn’t merely describe a given situation but actually brings into being that which it names—has been immensely productive for gender studies and queer theory (extending beyond speech to cultural discourse including gender assignment and forms of “coming out of the closet”). However, some uses of the term “performative” in performance studies lose sight of the role that social convention and the unconscious play in the performative effects of discourse beyond the intentions of an individual actor knowingly performing a theatrical role, which I am here calling “performancy” as it connotes willed performance. On this, see J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, 2nd Edition (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1975) and Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’ (New York: Routledge, 1993). [return to page 1]
3. I would like to thank Bradford Nordeen, Maureen Turim, Linda Howell, Melissa McCarron, Diana Aldrete, Christopher Perrello, Lauren Jones, Alex Palmer, Hayden Drewery, Erin Tuzuner, Carl Cochrane, Jessie Nute, Matthew Birmingham and the queens of Dragstravaganza (Jacksonville, FL), among many other friends and fans of the show, for sharing their thoughts and insights about RuPaul’s Drag Race. This essay developed out of my presentation on a panel at the Northeast Modern Language Association conference, ‘You’ve got She-Mail!’: Drag and Discursive Limits in RuPaul’s Drag Race, organized by Diana Aldrete and Melissa McCarron, March 17, 2012. [return to page 3]
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