Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Christina L. Ivey, "If We're Mocking Anything, It's Organized Religion: The Queer Holy Fool Style of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" (doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, 2016)


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Communication Studies, Under the Supervision of Professors Damien Smith Pfister and Carly S. Woods. Lincoln, Nebraska : May, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Christina L. Ivey


Asking questions in and about the often rough terrain at the intersection of sexuality/gender and religion/spirituality, this dissertation seeks to excavate the concept of queer holy fool style as a fitting response to dominant Judeo-Christian narratives that marginalize LGBTQ individuals. To do so, I utilize the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), a drag performing community of “21st Century Nuns,” as a synechdoche; pulling examples of their communication and performances as evidence of queer holy fool style. In exploring three facets of stylistic study (embodied, textual/hypertextual, and sociological), I blend queer theoretical concepts (like camp, performativity, and disciplining) with rhetorical methodological frameworks (such as Burke’s [1969] four master tropes and parody). At the end of the analysis, I uncover counter narratives within the SPI’s communication featuring themes of sexual freedom, spirituality, and safety in coalescence.

Throughout the dissertation, I continually ask questions regarding queer holy fool style – some I answer, others I do not – as an attempt to engage the reader with the work. In this way, I perform the playful, yet disruptive nature of queer theoretical work. I conclude with suggestions to extend the study of queer holy fool style; primarily, the inclusion of oral histories to identify intricacies within the style as well as an autoethnographic approach that would track the creation of an individual’s performance of the style.

Advisors: Damien Smith Pfister and Carly S. Woods