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Media Studies PhD Receives NYU's Outstanding Dissertation Award

Headshot of Harris Kornstein looking at camera wearing round red glasses.

Harris Kornstein, who completed their PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication in Fall 2021, has received the highly competitive university-wide NYU Award for Outstanding Dissertation on the Topic of Inequality.

Kornstein's dissertation, "Queer Enchantment: Contours, Cruising, Crystal Visions, and Other Queer Tactics for (Not) Being Seen," examines the intersections of queerness and surveillance capitalism, proposing “queer enchantment” as a set of for avoiding, mitigating, and directly challenging observation. Drawing on digital media theory and queer studies, Kornstein documents creative queer/trans cultural practices like drag performance, queer-run transportation networks, and mystical spiritual practices like tarot and astrology that counter both social and digital forms of control. Contrary to traditional discourses of privacy or transparency, queer enchantment techniques operate less by withholding data or opting out, and rather by taking advantage of the paradoxical hyper- and in-visibility that many queer and trans people playfully modulate through affect, play, and allure—ultimately overwhelming both the senses and the sensors.

Harris Kornstein is currently an Assistant Professor of Public & Applied Humanities at the University of Arizona.

Photos from Kornstein's dissertation, on using drag makeup techniques to confound facial recognition algorithms.