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Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America [Paperback]

by Esther Newton
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15, 1979 0226577600 978-0226577609 1
For two years Ester Newton did field research in the world of drag queens—homosexual men who make a living impersonating women. Newton spent time in the noisy bars, the chaotic dressing rooms, and the cheap apartments and hotels that make up the lives of drag queens, interviewing informants whose trust she had earned and compiling a lively, first-hand ethnographic account of the culture of female impersonators. Mother Camp explores the distinctions that drag queens make among themselves as performers, the various kinds of night clubs and acts they depend on for a living, and the social organization of their work. A major part of the book deals with the symbolic geography of male and female styles, as enacted in the homosexual concept of "drag" (sex role transformation) and "camp," an important humor system cultivated by the drag queens themselves.

"Newton's fascinating book shows how study of the extraordinary can brilliantly illuminate the ordinary—that social-sexual division of personality, appearance, and activity we usually take for granted."—Jonathan Katz, author of Gay American History

"A trenchant statement of the social force and arbitrary nature of gender roles."—Martin S. Weinberg, Contemporary Sociology

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Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America + Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective (6th Edition)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 15, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226577600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226577609
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Snapshot September 8, 2000
Format:Paperback
Newton's research in Mother Camp is now dated, however its lasting value is in the rich snapshot that she has captured of gay street and performace life pre-liberation and feminist movements. For those who were there, much of Newton's work will ring true and for those who weren't, her book measures the distance between where gay liberation was and where it is today. The reader may wish for a more poignant feminist or cultural analysis of Newton's subject but when one considers the date of the research and writing (1965-69), Newton's analysis actually displays a surprisingly astute and diasporic handling of the sex/gender system. Newton steers clear of the exceptional epi-centers of gay activity (New York, San Fran) and in doing so manages to sieze upon a drag sensibility that may be more familiar to the majority of middle American gays and lesbians. In my estimation, this book makes a perfect if not necessary historical compliment to studies that include films such as Paris is Burning or other works on drag, camp, performance, or early gay culture.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, and for good reason March 28, 2008
By Sarah
Format:Paperback
Mother Camp is one of the foundational texts of gay studies, and for good reason. Not only is it incredible ethnographic work, but Newton was one of the first to treat queer culture with the kind of scholarly care it deserved. It's beautifully written, sharply observed, and filled with empathy for her subjects. Particularly given the resistance to her work she had to deal with (which she details in her essay collection "Margaret Mead Made Me Gay"), Mother Camp is a courageous, groundbreaking piece of scholarship. And without Esther Newton there would have been no Judith Butler: Newton's work is crucial for Butler's analysis of drag in "Gender Trouble."
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars etnografia urbana March 30, 2008
Format:Paperback
Me gusto mucho el libro, ademas ha sido de gran ayuda para poder acercarse a un trabajo antropologico, especificamente de etnografia. Claro que es un clasico y vale la pena constrastarlo con trabajos contemporaneos, pero en general es un libro que logra cautivar al lector, los ejemplos son nutridos y los analisis muy interesantes. Es un libro que debe ser leido.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good August 23, 2013
By Cris MJ
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Time of delivering was respected as the book conditions. Everything all right. The book is really interesting and difficult to find.
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