Drag Acts

Performativity, Subversion and the AIDS Poetry of Rafael Campo and Mark Doty

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Sheffield
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According to Judith Butler, gender, although seemingly essential and fixed, is a series of corporeal acts and gestures which iterate or repeat cultural norms. She argues, in fact, that it is the very citationality of gender that makes it appear natural, inherent and internal. Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s ‘Signature, Event, Context’, an article which argues that the performative speech act is not a singular act but instead ‘a reiteration of a norm or set of norms’, Butler therefore poses the notion of gender as ‘performative’. She is always quick to point out that this does not mean gender is performance, in the sense of being a conscious and optional act. In an Althusserian vein, Butler instead sees the subject as compelled and interpellated into subjectivity through the compulsory imitation and continual citation of gender. Drag, according to Butler, reveals this performativity by its parodic play on gender roles, and she argues that drag can serve a ‘subversive function’

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