Drag scholarship takes center stage

April 11, 2024

The art of drag is receiving visibility and appreciation on the University of Michigan’s campus this spring. U-M LSA Professor of Spanish, Latina/o, and Women's and Gender Studies Larry La Fountain-Stokes (Lola von Miramar) and Tufts University Associate Professor of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies Kareem Khubchandani (LaWhore Vagistan) will offer a deep dive at the upcoming Drag Book Talk, Dragademia. This event will celebrate their respective books examining the cultural narratives and social issues explored through drag performance.

Dragademia will take place on April 18th in the Hatcher Library from 6:00-8:00 p.m., and the first 40 attendees to arrive will receive a complimentary copy of both books.


For La Fountain-Stokes, his book on the topic, "Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance," emerged from over 20 years of research on drag and Puerto Rican culture. His artistic drag persona Lola von Miramar, a bilingual Puerto Rican queen, allows him to engage Latinx audiences through an authentic cultural lens.

"I'm really interested in the politics of drag — how the arts use drag as an anti-racism tool to build awareness, promote bilingualism, spotlight transgender people, and more," he explained. "There's a complex line between drag and transgender identity that's important to understand."

For Khubchandani, their drag persona LaWhore Vagistan embodies the "South Asian aunty" archetype, echoing the intention of using drag to challenge societal norms. Their recent book "Decolonize Drag" calls for liberating drag from its colonial roots and Western ideals of gender.

Both professors expressed joys and challenges in bringing academic perspectives to their drag artistry. While drag allows space for political expression, assumptions about gender identity and personal safety can also create barriers.

"I've had people ask if I'm transgender — I'm a gay man performing in drag, not because I'm trans," said La Fountain-Stokes. "There are risks in just getting to the venue due to potential hostility towards drag."

The event aims to increase drag's visibility on U-M’s campus while providing insights into its rich history and cultural significance, building on growing mainstream exposure from shows like "RuPaul's Drag Race."

"For better or worse, that show [RuPaul’s Drag Race] opened the floodgates for drag scholarship and education to gain more prominence," noted Khubchandani. "We're seeing a diversity of perspectives which is needed."

The professors encouraged respectful allyship by attending local drag shows, tipping performers generously, protesting anti-drag legislation, and recognizing drag as a legitimate artistic platform — especially given its intertwined relationship with trans rights and expression.

With the Arts Initiative's collaborative support, La Fountain-Stokes and Khubchandani hope to continue creating transformative programming that celebrates drag's radical potential while educating audiences on its complex, multifaceted roles across societies and movements.

Visit the U-M Library’s website for more information and RSVP for this upcoming event today. 

This program is presented by the U-M Arts Initiative in partnership with the U-M Library.


by Jess Jenks, U-M Arts Initiative

Lola von Miramar and LaWhore Vagistan.


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