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If we're mocking anything, it's organized religion: The queer holy fool style of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Christina L Ivey, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


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.

Subject Area

Communication|LGBTQ studies|Performing Arts|Rhetoric|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Ivey, Christina L, "If we're mocking anything, it's organized religion: The queer holy fool style of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10128765.