Dr Mark Edward, wearing a blue velvet blazer, holds a copy of his new book while standing in front of a backstage dressing room mirror.
Dr Mark Edward hopes his new book will spark debate on drag culture. © Helen Newall

An Edge Hill academic hopes to spark debate on drag culture with the release of his new book. 

Dr Mark Edward, Reader in Dance and Performance at the University, explores the philosophy and practice of modern drag in his latest release Contemporary Drag Practices and Performers, including critical debate on drag’s place in society today. 

The book, co-edited by Stephen Farrier, Reader in Theatre and Performance at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, features chapters on drag in relation to race, religion and gender, exploring how drag has become more non-binary and more queer aware.

Fellow Edge Hill academics Rosa Fong, Senior Lecturer in Media, and Dr Chris Greenough, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religion, have also contributed chapters on “chinoiserie drag” and organisations like the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, respectively.

“This is really current debate,” Mark said. “The book covers topics which are not yet widely acknowledged; it looks outside the mainstream to give a voice and a platform to drag performers such as bio-queens (women dressing as drag queens) and peripheral drag kinging and queening.

“The book moves away from drag in relation to gender; we’re talking about performers and performance in relation to various practices. And there’s debate on ‘old school’ versus ‘new school’ drag, the aesthetics are totally different now.” 

Mark highlights the distinction between a range of British drag cultures and that which is represented by popular television programmes such as RuPaul’s Drag Race

“Nearly everyone knows about drag now through RuPaul but that’s only one aspect. We do acknowledge him as one of the main players but it’s a very American style of drag and this research book is about exploring many other drag avenues.  

“People look at RuPaul and think that’s what drag is but he’s only one lens of drag culture; there’s much more to it, there’s a whole political activism element which is so important. 

Dr Edward, a former drag performer himself, started out in the late 80s when he was just 16. 

He added: “I hope this book goes beyond the popular veneer of drag culture and helps people think about different debates, about the cultural and societal impact of drag. 

“Stephen and I want to prompt discussion and debate, and inspire the work of other researchers the way Roger Baker’s Drag did back in the 60s, by adding to the body of knowledge on drag and queer performance.” 

Contemporary Drag Practices and Performers: Drag in a Changing Scene has been endorsed by pre-eminent drag queen and star of Channel 4’s Drag SOS Cheddar Gorgeous, the American performance artist, activist and author Tim Miller and research expert Dr Cath Lambert from Warwick University. 

A copy of Contemporary Drag Practices and Performers stands upright featuring a drag artist with rollers in their hair and a cigarette in their mouth.
© Helen Newall

Artist Mark Wardel, known for creating striking masks of David Bowie, some of which were bought by the star himself, designed the book’s front cover, and playwright and author Mark Ravenhill wrote the foreword. 

Contemporary Drag Practices and Performers: Drag in a Changing Scene, published by Bloomsbury’s Methuen Drama Engage, is on sale now

Edge Hill University offers a variety of Performing Arts courses including BA (Hons) Dance and Drama and BA (Hons) Musical Theatre