A Digital (N)Ethnographic Journey through the Roots and Routes of Boylesque

I just submitted my first project proposal ever to ASTR—American Society for Theatre Researchers for this year’s conference in Seattle, WA Portland, OR (edit: June 24). The conference is organized in working groups around certain topics, all with processes and structure for presentations that are different. This year, I want to participate and thus submitted a proposal to one of two working groups on digital humanities: Collaboration, Evaluation, and Access in Digital Theatre Scholarship. The working session will be structured with an hour-long discussion of 10-12 page long papers circulated before the conference, addressing questions of collaboration, evaluation, and access. After that, another hour will follow of digital poster presentations—”a hands-on interactive session during which participants demonstrate (via their own laptops) a particular research methodology that makes use of digital tools, and engage in discussion with attendees,” as the website states.

My proposal, in its entirety, can be read here:

Self-identified male bodies in burlesque has a history that goes further back than is normally considered in accounts of burlesque history and are an under-theorized absence in the many accounts of burlesque. My dissertation addresses the history and political aspects of boylesque—a fairly new genre growing out of the neo-burlesque movement. I contextualize the genre and the employment of the term boylesque in the larger history of male striptease in New York, the US, and globally.

My dissertation is a born-digital project where (n)ethnographic research into social media conversations around the genre governs the formulation of my initial research questions. I am mapping these conversations by scraping Twitter and geotagging the conversations over time in CartoDB. The dissertation is being constructed in the open-source platform Scalar which can integrate the maps and other media into the text.

Methodologically, I want to develop new ways, through technology, to engage with the historical and contemporary subjects of my dissertation in ways that can involve them in the longer process of both participating in as well as creating a research project, and make the project accessible to audiences outside the traditional boundaries of academia. In all, the dissertation project is developed in and with the public, and thus situated in the intersection of Public and Digital Humanities.

For convenience, I have posted the entire Call for Papers request here:

With the proliferation of digital projects in theatre and performance studies, new questions arise about technologically infused research methodologies and the availability of digital tools. How can we properly recognize work by technical consultants and designers? How should institutions evaluate not only the findings of digital projects but also code or other artifacts of digital research? How might digital research restrict access by scholars and students without proper resources (financial, technical, human)? This working session aims both to provide a platform for sharing current digital scholarship and to permit reflection on the political implications of digital research.

The three issues of collaboration, evaluation, and access, while certainly not new to scholars, are particularly poignant in digital work. The problems arise no matter what the content of the material; thus, this session invites the participation of scholars working in any aspect of theatre and performances studies, representing a diverse array of topics and time periods. Digital scholarship challenges a traditional humanist ethos of solitary thought. We will consider how digital scholarship demands that we recognize the wider polity involved in all forms of critical work. Evaluating digital projects raises similar challenges. The multiplicity of skills required for digital scholarship and the necessary division of labor may require assessment more like that for creative work than for a traditional monograph. In both cases, theatre and performance studies’ long commitment to practice-based research may provide a useful model for thinking about collaboration in and the evaluation of digital scholarship. Finally, digital humanities’ utopian vision of open access (free online texts, digital archives) disguises other problems of accessibility: what kind of financial and infrastructural resources are required to support digital work? And how can we ensure that the digital humanities do not reproduce the normatively white, male structure that dominates the tech world in Silicon Valley? Digital humanities invites us to consider these political questions anew.