By Julie Clack
Last month, Professor Javier Guerrero, in collaboration with Northwestern University’s Nathalie Bouzaglo, convened the first international Drag Kings symposium at Princeton. The three-year project, titled “Drag Kings: An Archeology of Spectacular Masculinities in Latino America,” “debates the future of gender in the unequal, plural, and contradictory space that we call Latino America.”
Drawing on iconic figures such as Che Guevara, Simón Bolívar, Pancho Villa and Chavela Vargas, the project seeks not only to “complicate the certainties of gender” but also to “stage a game of de-identifications that resists the pressures and new tactics of sexual binarism, making it impossible to locate the originals of sex and gender and instead constructing a space of material autonomy.”
Participants in the Princeton symposium came from all over the world and from a range of backgrounds, including academics, artists, curators, filmmakers and writers.
The symposium kicked off with a screening of the film “Chavela,” which depicts the life of Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, who rose to fame in Mexico and around the world for her interpretation of traditional rancheras music. In order to provide the audience with some of the rich context surrounding Vargas’ life, Licia Fiol-Matta, professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University, gave a lecture on Vargas’ masculinity, titled “Voice Makes the Man.” Following the film screening, the film’s director Catherine Gund participated in a Q&A session with the audience.
Throughout the second day of the symposium, participants gave lectures in both Spanish and English on a variety of topics that were followed by engaging panel discussions. For a complete list of the symposium’s topics, discussants, moderators and participants, visit the Drag Kings website.
“The spring symposium is just one of the many events planned in the Drag Kings project,” said Guerrero. In addition to conferences and symposia around the world, Guerrero and Bouzaglo are also organizing research trips and coursework components.