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Singing Is a Drag: Gender, Voice, and Body in Drag Performance

MacIntyre, Kat (Alec) (2017) Singing Is a Drag: Gender, Voice, and Body in Drag Performance. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation brings together voice and gender theories to describe voice/gender/body relationships among drag performers in the U.S. as a means to address gaps in both areas of scholarship. Contemporary gender theory often cites Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity, which is based on analysis of speech-acts without acknowledging the sounding voice. Conversely, recent work in sound studies and philosophy by Douglas Kahn, Mladen Dolar, Bernard Stiegler, and Jonathan Sterne explicitly deals with the sounding voice and the body while ignoring gender. Both these gaps are significant areas for new scholarship because genders are sounded, heard, and policed through the voice.
Using evidence gathered from multi-site ethnographic research with drag performers, as well as virtual ethnography and media studies, I link queer and feminist iterations of performativity theory with voice and sound studies to theorize how body and gender are sounded and heard through the voice. I have chosen to examine voice/body/gender relationships in queer communities because the atypical configurations of anatomy, gender identity, and gender expressions in queer spaces highlight naturalized codes for expressing and reading gender on and through the body, including assumptions about the location and embodiment of voice. Looking at cases that break with social codes for embodying and vocalizing gender makes the codes themselves visible: failure and/or refusal to obey naturalized rules draws attention to the artificiality of the rule system as a whole and exposes the gendered body and voice as social constructions.
My work builds on existing studies of gender performance and performativity, drawing from feminist scholarship, queer theory, and their applications in music studies. I also engage work on mind/body ontology and the location of voice, including ontological critiques of some feminist theories of embodiment and more speculative theories locating voice outside the body and subjectivity. I use these theoretical tools with my ethnographic work to argue that voices perform identity in relation to naturalized rules specific to locations, times, and cultural/sub-cultural groups.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
MacIntyre, Kat (Alec)kam291@pitt.edukam291
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHelbig,
Committee MemberCassaro,
Committee MemberSteingo,
Committee MemberMcClary,
Date: 28 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 May 2017
Approval Date: 28 September 2017
Submission Date: 30 July 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 203
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: gender performance, voice, identity, queer theory, aesthetics, queer politics
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2017 21:33
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2017 21:33


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