Kai(e)rotic Moments: Resistance and Alternate Futures in Burlesque Performance
AuthorCoan, Casely Emma
AdvisorLicona, Adela C.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the ways performance offers opportunities to resist sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, fat phobic, and ableist narratives. Through ethnographic research with the Tucson Libertine League (TLL) burlesque community in Tucson, AZ, I argue that the erotic desire/s of narrative striptease reveal the rhetorical possibility in burlesque performance – its capacity to be politically persuasive. Engaging an intersectional feminist methodology, I use interviews, observation, performance as method, and act analysis to study acts by a heterogenous group of woman-identified performers who identify as lesbian, queer, trans, fat, of color, and/or disabled, and center their performances around these intersectional subjectivities. My inclusion in this community as a performer allowed me to participate and observe from backstage, on stage, and in the audience. I also produced and performed in a 16-act show, “Tucson Libertine League presents: Future Fantasies” as a part of this project. Following Audre Lorde’s characterization of the erotic as a source of personal power and the Ancient Greeks’ depiction of the god Eros as foundational to human existence, I utilize a complex understanding of erotic desire beyond simply the sexual, to its reflection of deeper knowledges and self-determination. The nature of live performance means that burlesque performers have access only to their brief time on stage and the particular audience in front of them in order to utilize burlesque’s rhetorical potential. In response to a paucity of literature at the intersection of desire and kairos, the propitious moment for action, I develop the concept “kaieros:” the interpretation of the erotic (eros) as a kairotic opportunity for rhetorical intervention that signals a potential re/negotiation of meaning around performers’ intersectional subjectivities. The rhetorical encounter of performer-audience interaction during narrative striptease holds the potential to shift conceptualizations about what and whom can be desired, desirable, and desirous, and by whom. This momentary rhetorical potential is made possible by erotic desire’s mutability, its characterization as a fluid entity and experience (for both audience and performer). Desire becomes multivalent and powerful, capable not only of putting bodies and subjectivities in dynamic relationship with one another but also, by extension, of re/negotiating meanings around those bodies and subjectivities. This dissertation reveals two ways in which burlesque performers employ the rhetorical possibility of narrative striptease’s kaierotic exchange: by staging rageful resistance to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fat phobia, and ableism, thereby recruiting the audience into their protest; and by offering snapshots of potential alternate futures, utopic times and spaces where racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fat phobia, and ableism no longer exist, and where these intersectional subjects are valued and desired. Not only do I underscore performance’s role in rhetorical efforts to re/negotiate narratives around intersectional subjectivities, but I also demonstrate how burlesque performance, specifically, urges more extended study, within the field of rhetoric, of bodies and desire/s as rhetorical actors. Finally, I discuss the ways in which this research reveals the benefits of collaborative projects between artists and academics concerning minoritarian subjects and social transformation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English