Academia Goes Burlesque:
on the Queer Impact of the, Popular and Sexual Culture, Berlin May 15-16, 2024


The international Symposium "Academia goes Burlesque"  is a part of the research project "Queering of gender, desire and local myths in the (neo-) burlesque. A comparative analysis of the (neo-)burlesque scenes in New Orleans, Berlin and Warsaw"  by Dr. Joanna Staskiewicz (University Potsdam). While (neo-)burlesque is the subject of much scholarly discussion in the English-speaking world, the topic is still a research gap in Germany, although the first (neo-)burlesque shows took place in Berlin as early as 2005. The project aims to close this research gap and in particular to investigate the queering effect of (neo-)burlesque and is based on the assumption that (neo)burlesque as a whole is queering - ambiguous, denormalizing, dehierarchizing. It analyses the (neo-)burlesque in particular as a pop-cultural phenomenon that has a subversive effect on two levels - not only in the sense of a queer intervention in the heteronormative matrix, but also on the level of local myths, which are questioned through the autobiographical lens of the performers. The local aspect has so far been largely ignored in (neo-)burlesque research, although it offers a new perspective on the situatedness of the phenomenon, the handling of cultural stagings and instrumentalizations of history and tradition, and takes up current social moods. The central questions of the project are: does (neo-)burlesque function as a queer intervention by parodistically iterating traditional notions of gender roles and heteronormativity? If so, how does this queer intervention look like in concrete terms? Can (neo-)burlesque also question local and national myths through playful performance? How and to what effect are local narratives taken up by performers and their biographical history? The project explores these questions through an international comparison of the (neo-)burlesque scenes in New Orleans, Berlin and Warsaw.

The two-day symposium with scholars and performers from Berlin/Potsdam, New Orleans and Warsaw is meant as a connection of academia with burlesque world of the three cities Berlin, Warsaw and New Orleans, with discussions, performances, photo project and film presentations. There will be screenings of documentaries that are hardly known in Germany, such as the documentary "Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival" (USA 2012) by Red Vaughan Tremmel and the documentary "Fabulous Femininities" (UK 2023), which was created as part of the research project by Dr. Jacki Willson (University of Leeds), followed by discussions with the filmmakers. The presentation of the photo project "Wigs&Gloves" by Hamburg photographer Julia Gaes on the queer aspect of burlesque and drag shows will also combine academia with art. 

The aim of the symposium is not only to promote academic exchange on (neo-)burlesque as a queer intervention, but also aims to give a platform to exchange between academia and popular culture. We would like to discuss different academic and transdisciplinary perspectives from the three cities, but also to include the perspective of the performers in the academic discourse. Therefore the symposium will also take place at the burlesque venue in Berlin.