Serialization, Ethnographic Drag, and the Ineffable Authenticity of Nikki S. Lee

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Todd Richardson


This essay reads the photographer Nikki S Lee’s Projects, a series of pictures in which the artist poses as a member of various subcultures and folk groups from an ethnographic perspective. Focusing on how folklore scholars might employ Lee’s representational strategies, the essay suggests that two aspects of Projects are especially instructive for folkloristic ethnography. First, Lee’s use of drag as camp highlights the performative aspects of identity, showing how individuals express themselves both through and against shared expressive standards. Second, the serialized presentation of the photographs provides a model for the ethnographic representation of multiple folk identities performed by individuals who belong to a variety of folk groups. In these ways, Lee’s Projects can assist folklorists looking to represent the fugitive aspects of folk identity that resist or are resisted by folk processes, those individual aspects of folk performances which the folk and their folklore cannot efface.

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How to Cite
Richardson, T. (2013). Serialization, Ethnographic Drag, and the Ineffable Authenticity of Nikki S. Lee. New Directions in Folklore, 11(2), 68-83. Retrieved from //
Author Biography

Todd Richardson, University of Nebraska, Omaha

Todd Richardson, an assistant professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, teaches in the award-winning Goodrich Scholarship Program. He received his doctorate from the University of Missouri, where his research focused on the construction and reception of authenticity in American folklore, popular culture and literature. His writings on the subject have appeared in a variety of publications, including the Journal of American Folklore, Weber: The Contemporary West, and The Writer's Chronicle.