Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Philip Arnold

Second Advisor

Robin Riley


drag, LaBeija, queer, RuPaul, subjectivity, trans

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


The project considers the disparity between two case studies of “drag:” 1) “RuPauline drag” (RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul, and affiliated properties), and 2) the House of LaBeija as a microcosm of ballroom drag, an international phenomenon comprised predominantly by queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) competing in self-hosted “balls.” These “cases” are assessed as ideal texts, that is, ideal types (heuristic and reductive) which are interpreted as texts (via hermeneutical methodology) in hopes of comparing the cases for the subjectivities they foster and the orientations they promulgate. This work begins with a comparison of the “cases” via the settings in which they occur, contrasting their relationship to and deployment of race, gender, class, and sex(uality), while the latter half examines their practices and professed values, via performance, ritual, kinship, and fantasy, for the orientations they create and sustain. Taken together, the comparison of these “cases” aims to resist the flat, cisgender-heterosexual-normative reading of “drag” as a homogenous practice and insists that the demarcation of certain subjects as “religious” further marginalizes and invalidates people and communities for whom drag holds an ultimate importance. This project concludes with a brief consideration of drag’s potential for intervention into the study of religion by way of challenging conventional binaries, interrogating the coherency of the “religious” subject, and encouraging the study of religion to think expansively about the many ways people orient themselves in the world.


Open Access



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