‘Can you get more American than Native American?’: Drag and settler colonialism in RuPaul’s Drag Race

Record Number: 
UPAD001
Citation: 

Upadhyah, Nishant. “‘Can you get more American than Native American?’: Drag and settler colonialism in RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Cultural Studies, vol. 33, no. 3, 2019, pp. 480-501.

Annotation: 

Upadhyay explores drag, queerness, settler colonialism, cultural appropriation, and Native identity through a case study from Season Three (2011) of the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. They compare the Native identity expressions of Lumbee drag queen Stacy Layne Matthews, the season’s only indigenous participant who was eliminated in the episode where Stacy, from Back Swamp, North Carolina, “came out” as Lumbee, to that of Raja, who won the third season while displaying a cosmopolitan form of indigeneity.

Upadhyay notes that Raja found Stacy’s “country-ness” irritating (p. 484) and that “social class is a key aspect of binary, where Stacy lacks the economic means and resources to be ‘cosmopolitan’ as compared to Raja” (p. 497, note 24).

To sum up their arguments, Upadhyay states:

“ . . . I trace how Raja performed, imitated, and appropriated indigeneity on her way to winning season 3. I argue that Raja’s act as the Native, after Lumbee drag queen Stacy’s elimination from the show, demonstrateshowqueer people of colour can become complicit in processes of settler colonialism. . . . Overall, I argue that drag of colour performance is not beyond the logics of power and hegemony.”

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