Book Review

This special section reviews Esther Newton’s Mother Camp almost fifty years after its initial release, reflecting on its groundbreaking insights as well as its continued relevance. In his introduction, David Valentine writes:

Why review a book—why have an introduction to seven reviews of a book—that was published almost fifty years ago? While Esther Newton’s ethnography Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America is nowadays almost reflexively called a “classic,” that term should raise questions in light of the latest debates about the place of classics and canons in anthropology, the meanings of “ethnography,” and renewed attention to the corrosive consequences of elite, masculinist intellectual networks. Unlike most “classics,” Mother Camphas lived in anthropology’s margins; it was never reviewed in an anthropology journal. Its subsequent fame was, rather, established among different disciplinary kin networks even as its theoretical frame was overtaken by transformations in anthropological interests and styles. However, while there are good, festschrift‐y reasons for this special book review section, our goal is neither simply to retrospectively celebrate Newton nor to correct a historical wrong. Collectively, the reviews gathered here argue that there are solid reasons to spend time on Mother Camp as anthropologists in 2018: first, for what it can offer to contemporary disciplinary debates and, second, for understanding the political moment some of us appear to be surprised to be in. The unexpected genre of book review for this task is appropriately performative and campy.

These reviews are free to access through the end of the year.


Reviewing Mother Camp (Fifty Years Late)

Introduction: Classic. Mother. Camp.
David Valentine 

Esther Newton Made Me a Gay Anthropologist
Gayle Rubin

Mighty Realness, Mother Camp
Martin F. Manalansan IV

Mother Camp in Drag
Marcia Ochoa

In the Wake of Esther
Shaka McGlotten

Re-view: Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America
Elisabeth L. Engebretsen

“Street Faeries Have Nothing to Lose”: Reading Logics of Difference in Mother Camp
Varun Chaudhry

Mother Camp in Spanish
María José Belbel 

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *