College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Women's & Gender Studies


queer studies, pansy craze, Africana studies, disidentification theory, drag performance


The historical period known as the "pansy craze" denotes a unique moment in United States history marked by wide-spread public fascination with “pansy” performance, or entertainment involving male entertainers performing in feminine personas suggestive of homosexuality. During the pansy craze, the visibility of “sexual inversion,” or “queer” performativity combined with the popularity of speakeasies, night clubs, cabarets, and dance halls during Prohibition and facilitated greater tolerance of queerness within broader urban society during much of the 1920s-1930s, despite a national discourse upholding compulsive heterosexuality. However, as this project demonstrates, the pansy craze unique to Chicago's "Black Belt" neighborhoods lasted well into the 1940s. This project applies an intersectional lens to the Black pansy craze in Chicago's neighborhood of Bronzeville during the 1920s-1940s. Jose Esteban Muñoz’s disidentification theory serves as the principal theoretical approach for this project. Primary and secondary source analysis reveals that Black pansy performers entertaining in Bronzeville utilized the process of disidentification in performance and entertainment as a means of achieving social and cultural inclusion and agency within an otherwise exclusionary and oppressive national imaginary. The legacy of Bronzeville’s Black pansy craze reflects the foundations of Chicago’s contemporary queer community. This thesis contributes a historical study of the largely overlooked historical narrative of bravery, defiance, emancipation, and self-determination of Black queer performers in Bronzeville during the period.