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"Go Forth and Sin Some More!" A Performance Geography of the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence


"Go Forth and Sin Some More!" A Performance Geography of the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Crawford, Jason B. (2011) "Go Forth and Sin Some More!" A Performance Geography of the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Crawford_PhD_F2011.pdf - Accepted Version


This thesis is a performance geography of the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Founded in 1979, the Order is a group of queer nuns who take vows to “expiate stigmatic guilt, spread universal joy and commit to serve the community.” The Order now counts thirty-seven chapters around the world, each “house” reflecting the social and cultural context of its locale. The San Francisco house is considered the “mother house” of the Order and this thesis will focus solely on the mother house. The Order is recognizable for their whiteface makeup and distinctive wimples and veils. They employ the traditions of street theatre, clowning and drag to raise money for local community organisations and causes. Known for their pioneering work in the early 1980s on safer sex campaigns, the Sisters have been at the forefront of AIDS activism in San Francisco and continue to raise people’s consciousness about discrimination and homophobia.

Performance geography is a way of mapping how performances give places meaning and how people make meaning through cultural performances, and the thesis explores several of the Sisters’ rituals and ceremonies in their geographic contexts. After an Introduction outlining the performance geography approach and a Chapter on the history, organisation and aesthetic styles of the Sisters, I describe the Sisters’ roles as nuns, clowns and activists—Chapters 3, 4, and 5 take up each of these roles specifically. Each chapter manouevres between a performance-based autoethnographic “voice” to evoke my experiences as an observer/audience member at several of these performances and an academic “voice.” Performances are analysed through the lenses of queer studies, performance, and cultural geography in order to provide an interpretation that: 1.) maps the spaces of queer community in San Francisco through the performances of the Sisters; 2.) sheds light on the constitution of “community” in these performances; and 3.) critically analyses the intersubjective relationship between the Sisters and those who attend their performances. In the Conclusion, I discuss how queer performance geography contributes to the analysis of cultural practices, point to its limits and address ways in which this approach can be applied to the study of cultural performances in other social dramas.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Concordia University > Research Units > Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Crawford, Jason B.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:May 2011
Thesis Supervisor(s):Waugh, Thomas and Little, Edward and Podmore, Julie
Keywords:Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, San Francisco, queer culture, performance geography,
ID Code:7692
Deposited On:22 Nov 2011 13:43
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:31
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