08 June 2021 Blogs, Academic, Librarian, Faculty

Making Diverse Perspectives and Research Topics Accessible

Why the world’s first drag queen with a Ph.D. on drag history published her dissertation with ProQuest

PHOTO CREDIT: Ian Argo

What happens when a researcher expresses interest in a topic that hasn’t been researched before? A topic that falls outside of more mainstream academic interest, or that focuses on a community or culture that’s been overlooked in traditional scholarship?

What happens when the only formal research on a community or culture has been done by those outside of it?

Unfortunately, in situations where scarce conventional resources are available on a topic, researchers are often dissuaded from pursuing their scholarly interests. That was the case for drag performance historian Dr. Lady J as a doctoral student in the Musicology Department at Case Western Reserve University.

An unconventional approach to an unconventional topic

When she embarked on researching her dissertation “From the Love Ball to RuPaul: The Mainstreaming of Drag in 1990s,” Dr. Lady J struggled to find scholarly content written by drag performers themselves, that focused on the act of performing.

“Though drag had been discussed heavily in the academic world, the focus largely remained fixed on theorizing the experience of cross-dressing off-stage rather than what performers were doing on-stage,” she explained in a recent case study.

“Very little space was given to what drag artists were trying to communicate with the art they were creating,” she said.

When her advisors suggested that she reconsider her topic, Dr. Lady J was undeterred and instead of the usual route, she sought insights and information from materials across disciplines including musicology, gender theory, LGBTQIA+ history, media studies, television studies, film studies, US history and pop culture history.

She also used – and argued for the legitimacy of using – several non-academic resources such as blogs, websites, biographies and personal histories, podcast interviews, social media posts and oral histories.

As she scoured the internet, conducting Google searches for many of her resources, Dr. Lady J stumbled upon a wealth of content related to drag performance in the theater world from ProQuest.

Bringing visibility and validity to diverse perspectives and research topics

“ProQuest was particularly helpful when looking for recent dissertations on drag that could help me expand my list of sources. Occasionally, this would open entirely new avenues to performers I had not yet considered or known existed,” Dr. Lady J said.

Dr. Lady J became the world’s first drag queen to have completed a Ph.D. dissertation on drag history. When it came time to publish, including her research in ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global (PQDT) was a no-brainer. She wanted this history to be easily accessible to all researchers, so they wouldn’t have to struggle to find scholarship on this topic the way she did.

“Sharing history this way allows exponential numbers of people to benefit from this research,” she noted.

Having her dissertation published and easily accessible has not only established the history of drag performance as a valid and important topic of academic study, it has also positioned Dr. Lady J as an authority in this area.

“Having my work accessible on PQDT has also yielded unique collaborative work opportunities. If I had hidden my work, I think many people would not have taken me as seriously outside the academic job market,” she added.

Read the case study about Dr. Lady J’s research journey to learn more about how PQDT can help promote diversity and inclusion in research. You can also read more about her work with Studio West 117.

Want to know more about how ProQuest is supporting diversity, equity and inclusion? Discover how ProQuest is committed to building collections that meet the needs of your unique community of students, scholars and educators by visiting our Every Voice initiative.