The Holocaust is considered a singularly atrocious event in human history, and many people have studied its causes. Yet few questions have been asked about the ways in which West Germans have "forgotten," unlearned, or reconstructed the racial beliefs at the core of the Nazi state in order to build a democratic society. This study looks at ethnic drag as one particular kind of performance that reveals how postwar Germans lived, disavowed, and contested "Germanness" in its complex racial, national, and sexual dimensions.
Using engaging case studies, Ethnic Drag traces the classical and travestied traditions of Jewish impersonation from the eighteenth century onward to construct a pre-history of postwar ethnic drag. It examines how shortly after World War II mass culture and popular practices facilitated the repression and refashioning of Nazi racial precepts. During a time when American occupation authorities insisted on remembrance and redress for the Holocaust, the Wild West emerged as a displaced theater of the racial imagination, where the roles of victim, avenger, and perpetrator of genocide were reassigned.
Ethnic Drag is a critical and entertaining look at the phenomenon of cultural masquerade and how it reveals racial feeling, thought, and behavior in postwar German culture. Contributing to considerations of drag in postcolonial, feminist, and queer scholarships, Ethnic Drag brings an analysis of postwar discourses on race to German cultural studies.
". . . an enticing, superbly documented, and exceptionally well-written account of the phantasmatic self-representations and impersonations of ethnicity in late-twentieth-century Germany. . . . Embedding her analysis in feminist, queer, and critical race theory, Sieg shows how the German emulation and usurpation of ethnicities is linked not only to radical reification but also to performative attempts at transformation. Katrin Sieg, in short, has produced an exceptional historical ethnography of postwar German ethnicities in the making. . . . It ought to be read by all scholars interested in German Studies, whether in the humanities or social sciences. Graduate students, as well as upper division undergraduates should be encouraged to discuss this work in class."
—Uli Linke, H-Net Reviews
"Awarded two prizes for outstanding scholarship in theater studies, Ethnic Drag has also set new standards for critical rigor and medium-specific analysis of German culture since 1945. Erudite, ambitious, and compelling, this interdisciplinary study deftly draws on feminist theories of gender and masquerade, queer theories of sexuality and transvestitism, critical theories of race and minstrelsy, postcolonial theories of ambivalence and mimicry, and dramatic theories of mimesis and impersonation to illuminate the interplay of collective anxieties and representational paradigms in performance cultures high and low. In Katrin Sieg's capable hands 'ethnic drag' is a sophisticated tool for understanding specific material practices of performativity as well as pivotal ways in which German culture since 1945 has interpreted, negotiated, forestalled, or refashioned the meaning of twentieth-century history in the wake of war and genocide. Pioneering and seminal, Ethnic Drag is what I would call an indispensable book."
—Leslie A. Adelson, Professor of German Studies, Cornell University
Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Winner: Joe A. Callaway Award for Best Book in Drama or Theatre
Winner: 2003 Research Award for Outstanding Book in Theatre Practice and Pedagogy from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)