Ad/dressing the nation: drag and authenticity in post-apartheid South Africa

J Homosex. 2004;46(3-4):91-111. doi: 10.1300/J082v46n03_06.


This paper examines a style of drag in South Africa that features "traditional African" clothing. In a region in which homosexuality is denigrated as a colonial, European import and "unAfrican," the meaning of "traditional drag" is deeply inflected by the question of cultural authenticity. This dragging practice fits within a distinctly post-colonial production of tradition and its self-conscious display--in the form of attire--of a decidedly "gay" one. Traditional drag also responds to ongoing politics within and between lesbian and gay communities about racial "representivity" and "transformation." The paper focuses on displays of traditional drag at Johannesburg's Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade but also explores the complex politics of publicity and address suggested by varying contexts in which traditional dress and drag are mobilized.

MeSH terms

  • Clothing*
  • Female
  • Homosexuality, Female
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Politics
  • South Africa
  • Transvestism*