Contradictions over normative bodies seen through the art of neo-burlesque

Main funder

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 26 000,00

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/02/2022

Project end date: 30/06/2024


My article based dissertation research focuses on the themes of body politics, gender and race in four separate articles. Using the ethnographic methods of interviews and participant observation, I will examine these issues from the perspective of neo-burlesque (a genre of stage performance that combines narrative, dance, theater, playfulness and striptease). Neo-burlesque has been described as offering new and liberating expressions and representations of the body to its audiences. At the same time, however, neo-burlesque contains contradictions. Although neo-burlesque artists emphasize the novel and liberating, all-inclusive nature of their art, the core of neo-burlesque is still very much based on Western, white, cis-gendered female imagery that is supported by Western beauty and body ideals. Power relations related to the representations of color are an important part of the discussions within neo-burlesque.

My dissertation research asks the following: 1) Exactly how does neo-burlesque offer alternatives to normative gender and body ideals? 2) What are the negotiations and power struggles that define which representations are brought onstage? My critical view is based on critical race theory, performance studies and feminist theoretical discussions of embodiment. My research will contribute to discussions around societal norms and gendered, embodied, and race-related power relations, and the contexts they are being produced in. I will examine how these are being answered and challenged in an art form known for free expression and pushing these boundaries.

My empirical research data (which has already been collected) consists of interviews of Finnish neo-burlesque performers, observations on Finnish neo-burlesque events and online materials such as articles and statements by members of (bipoc-)neo-burlesque community, news, history narrations and blog posts from bipoc-performers.
Over the past years I have created close connections to Finnish neo-burlesque community and thus developed confidential relations, which helped me to organize interviews for my research. My methods for analyzing my data are thematic content analysis and discourse analysis, which I use to search for recurring themes in speech, gestures and actions. I analyze what interpretations regarding embodiment, gender and power can be made on the basis of my source narratives and descriptions.

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Last updated on 2022-06-07 at 12:45