Last Monday, March 18, the Department of Liberal Studies with the Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers presented an event called Lessons in Drag.

Artist and scholar Kareem Khubchandani performed under his drag alter ego Lawhore Vagistan to take the audience through a cabaret-style show to discuss globalization, representation, feminist theory and religion. 

Khubchandani is an assistant professor in theater and performance studies at Tufts University. 

He has published pieces in the Scholar and Feminist Online Transgender Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Asian American Studies and The Velvet Light Trap. 

He is working on a book project called “Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife.”

Vagistan wants to spread learning beyond the classroom setting. 

Drag queen Lawhore Vagistan presented Lessons in Drag, to discuss topics like feminist theory. (Sabrina Zelaya / The Poly Post)

“Doing events like this on a college campus is a chance to get people to think about what learning is, what knowledge is and what education is,” Vagistan said. “It happens not just inside of a classroom but at the nightclub and at home, and when you’re having fun.”

The lesson began with dialogue on LGBTQ+ voices, speaking about experiences and relationships with religion, family, race, ethnicity, globalization and transnationality. 

Students performed pieces detailing how they felt about their situations; Xiomara Breslau performed “A Family Divided,” Max Schellenbergar performed “Rainbow Coffin” and Dana Recio played the ukulele and sang a cover of a Billie Eilish song.

Afterward, Lawhore Vagistan came out and did an energetic and glitter-fueled lip sync of “Let It Go,” from Frozen, only a Hindi cover of it. 

The drag queen then introduced herself and explained the rules of the event which were to: tag her on social media, ask questions, “do you” and react.

Liberal studies assistant professor Jeff Roy saw the event as a great way for his students to explore teaching. 

“I wanted [my] students to really learn, because many of them are aspiring teachers, and take the drag performance’s inspiration as a way of finding new techniques, and understanding the ways of teaching as a performance,” Roy said. “I want them to find ways to bridge gaps of understanding because people learn in very different ways.”

For the next number, Vagistan put on a music video while she did a costume change. 

The music video was a parody of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and was titled “Sari,” after the traditional Indian dress, and it made humor of Indian culture from an inside perspective. 

When she made her second appearance, she did a lip sync of “I Will Survive,” but with a mash-up from covers, which included Hindi and Spanish versions.

The moral of this lesson was to detail the common struggles women from different cultures experience. 

The conversation about black feminist theory began, and to introduce this topic, Vagistan performed a lip sync of Nicki Minaj’s song verses, with clips of Minaj discussing sexism in the music industry edited in between. 

Vagistan expressed a way of teaching perception through her mashup of songs from “Aladdin,” while making sexual gestures. 

For the last performance, Vagistan delivered “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion, which didn’t have an explanation other than the performer having seen Dion in Las Vegas recently. 

After the show, students had the opportunity to ask the performer or faculty questions.

Department chair of the Liberal Studies Department Christina Chavez-Reyes said this event, along with previous ones held in the spring, help students open up about impactful topics.  

“Our department, about six years, started doing a spring event for students that varied by theme,” Chavez-Reyes said. “The point of it is to learn outside the classroom, with each other, about things that we feel impact the things we want students to know. In this case, issues about social diversity, intersectionality, and to challenge students to think different, that they might not be willing to do in the classroom, where they cannot speak up.”

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