Cornell University

Musicology Colloquium: M. Leslie Santana, "Transgender Transformistas: Performing Sexual Subjectivity in Cuba"

Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 4:30pm

Virtual Event

What work are contemporary distinctions between drag performance and transgender subjectivity doing? In this talk, I tell the stories of two Black transgender transformistas (drag performers) in Cuba. I notice the ways their work and their words trouble boundaries often erected between gender and sexuality, performance and subjectivity, work and leisure. Overall, I demonstrate how their narratives demand an account of sexual subjectivity that is attentive to racial formations, geography, and political economy. Finally, I consider what all of this might mean for music studies and what we as scholars of music and performance might be able to offer to ongoing discussions in trans studies.


M. Leslie Santana is an interdisciplinary writer, teacher, and performer from Miami, Florida. Their research explores the relationship between performance and racial, sexual, and economic transformations in the Americas, and they are currently writing an ethnography of gender performance in contemporary Cuba. Leslie Santana’s work has appeared in the edited collections Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology (Oxford, 2019) and Queer Nightlife (Michigan, 2021). Previously active as a violinist, they frequently performed and taught in various contexts related to the Sphinx Organization and the Tanglewood Music Center. Leslie Santana is Assistant Professor of Music at UC San Diego, where their teaching engages with expressive culture in the Americas, the social and political contexts of musical art worlds, and critical and creative approaches to music scholarship.

Presented by the Music Graduate Association

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Lecture, Music


Department of Music


cascal, music


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