The Biden administration is now funding a book on “drag queens, trans taxi drivers, cruising gay men and femme witches” by a drag performer who writes LGTBQ books for children.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded a $60,000 grant to Harris Kornstein, who performs in drag as Lil Miss Hot Mess.
Kornstein is the co-founder and board member of Drag Queen Story Hour and wrote the children’s books “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish” and “If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It.”
The grant, which was awarded in January, is for a book about how drag queens “playfully dazzle both the human senses and computational sensors,” drawing on “case studies including drag queens, trans taxi drivers, cruising gay men and femme witches,” according to a report from Fox News.
The research program description says that the book will be focused on “Obfuscation, Play, and Other Queer Strategies for Countering Surveillance Capitalism.”
“This book project introduces a concept I entitle ‘digital enchantment’: a framework that explores how diverse queer and trans users subvert and expand traditional approaches of privacy by creatively exploiting the features of mainstream technologies and creating their own platforms,” the description reads.
“Prevailing counter-surveillance strategies uncritically celebrate visibility and representation while positioning privacy as an individual right rooted in concealing information,” it continues. “Drawing on San Francisco case studies including drag queens, trans taxi drivers, cruising gay men, and femme witches, I look to LGBTQ+ histories that complicate these assumptions. Digital enchantment describes the hyper-visible glamour, mischievousness, and mystical intuition that many queer/trans subjects employ to playfully dazzle both the human senses and computational sensors.”
The author argues that elaborate drag makeup can confuse facial recognition software.
Kornstein is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona.