Nishant Upadhyay


Dr. Nishant Upadhyay teaches in Women’s and Gender Studies at the Northern Arizona University, USA. Their research looks at South Asian diasporic formations in the settler-nation states of the U.S. and Canada. They theorize racial complicities in ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples, nations, and lands, through the transnational intersections of race, indigeneity, caste, class, gender, and sexuality. Their work has been published in journals like Feminist Studies, Feral Feminisms, Women Studies Quarterly, Sikh Formations, and Jindal Global Law Review.


“Can you get more American than Native American?”: Drag Creativity and (Racialized) Patriots Playing Natives  

The runway challenge for RuPaul’s Drag Race participants on Episode 9 of Season 3 was to dress in their most patriotic drag. Raja, an Asian American drag star and winner of that season, walked the runway in a Native dress. RuPaul, the show host and drag mother, approving Raja’s dress said: “Can you get more American than Native American?” Earlier in the show the participants made 30-second public service announcements on their love for America, which would be shown to U.S. military personals posted overseas. The contestants, significantly all racialized drag queens, overcome by the freedom and liberty that U.S has given them, showcased their love for the country, and thanked the soldiers for fighting for their freedom. Rupaul, who is African American, herself was dressed as a cowboy for the part of the show. Two episodes prior, the only Native participant of the season, Stacy Layne Matthews, was eliminated from the race. She lost the race in the episode where she claims her Lumbee heritage. It is hard to miss the settler colonial modalities in function here. With the Native “eliminated”, a few episodes later, racialized U.S. patriots could profess their love for the nation, play cowboys, celebrate soldiers, and be the Native. This paper theorizes the making of racialized (queer) settlers on stolen lands, processes of settler homonationalism (Morgensen 2010), and settler desires to be the Native. By playing the Indian, racialized subjects, akin to white settlers, claim belonging and affinity to settler states (Deloria 1998) and invest themselves in a settler futurity that is “dependent on the foreclosure of an Indigenous futurity” (Tuck and Yang 2012: 14). By looking at drag as a creative practice, that seeks to challenge gender and sexual normativities, this paper argues that drag can however work to reproduce the racial and colonial logics of the settler state. This paper is a call to rethink drag-creativity beyond gender performance, and to engage intersectionally with white settler colonial formations.

Talk Date: April 27, 1:15 – 3:15 Panel III (closed): Settler Politics and Creative Labour

Venue: University Senate Chamber

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