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Digital Devotions: Constructing Sexual and Spiritual Identities through Queer Saint Narratives Online

Givens, David (2019) Digital Devotions: Constructing Sexual and Spiritual Identities through Queer Saint Narratives Online. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation is a digitally-based ethnographic study examining narratives by and about sexual and gender minorities (SGM) around saint veneration and discourse. Online forums and blogs are an easily accessible and safe space that both SGM and their detractors are increasingly utilizing. The current study, a 2016 to 2018 assessment of websites, blogs, forums, and an online Roman Catholic support group, demonstrates that within online platforms, various authors and communities are using Christian saints to interpret and construct components of SGM religious and sexual identities and their intersections with theological, cultural, and socio-political concerns. Couched within the context of the intersecting histories of sexual and gender minorities experience and religious venerative traditions in America, this work highlights English-speaking online communities and assesses common themes and uses of saints among these sites, unpacking the ways in which they contribute to specific narratives and subjective, relational experiences. Specifically, Digital Devotions finds that communities are using saint symbolism to express their spirituality, model ideas or behaviors, or experience components of both individual subjectivity and group identity. These demarcations range from queer subjectivity and/or gender identity to religious expression and other political or cultural affiliations. Historically, hagiographies have never been written with historical accuracy or empirical plausibility as their primary concern. Now, contested saint narratives are found among communities who use them to promote heteronormative relationships and denounce queer lives but even more frequently in communities promoting queer and affirming interpretations of saints and legitimizing diverse sexual and gender identities. Examining these parallel efforts through lenses of queer studies, camp, and rhetorical and cultural analysis, the dissertation primarily contributes to the academic fields of queer studies and lived religion. Within these disciplines, new roles imagined for saints speak to the ongoing salience of subjectivity as a queer way of relating to experience and culture as well as the ongoing innovation occurring in and with Catholic traditions. These findings have speak to subversive saint narratives’ potential to reduce or perpetuate social and ecclesiastic stigma and contribute to larger social narratives in American society.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Givens, Daviddlg43@pitt.edudlg43
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKane, Paulapmk@pitt.edupmk
Committee MemberKranson,
Committee MemberChilson,
Committee MemberReeser,
Date: 30 January 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 November 2018
Approval Date: 30 January 2019
Submission Date: 8 November 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 254
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Religion (Cooperative Program in the study of)
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Saints; Queer Studies; identity formation; Catholic lived religion; LGBTQ subjectivity; digital ethnography
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2019 22:43
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2019 22:43

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  • Digital Devotions: Constructing Sexual and Spiritual Identities through Queer Saint Narratives Online. (deposited 30 Jan 2019 22:43) [Currently Displayed]


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