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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wrestling with the angels of ambiguity: scholarship in the in-between: queer theology / performative autoethnography Mesner, Kerri


This dissertation introduces performing theology: a queerly embodied approach to arts-based educational research. This approach utilizes a hybridization of performative autoethnography, queer Christian theological analysis, and post-structural approaches to anti- oppressive education. The written component of the dissertation takes the reader on a journey through scenes, interscenes, and scripts-within-scripts, articulating the theoretical and methodological developments integral to performing theology. The filmic portion of the dissertation—Intervention, an original one-act play written and performed by the author— serves as the heart of the dissertation. This unconventional framework provides a space for the creative and theological explorations informing the research as well as for the ambiguities and liminalities inherent to theologically informed queer performative autoethnography. The dissertation aims to take the reader on an artistic journey: one that may, at times, be disruptive or uncomfortable, but hopefully one that will also be provocative and productive. Act 1 of the dissertation takes the reader-as-audience-member on a script-based journey illuminating emergent theoretical and methodological processes informing the development of Intervention. Scene 1 explores the theoretical foundations of earlier iterations of this work, explicating research combining queer Christian theology and participatory theatre. Scene 2 (with audio performance) articulates the journey into a/r/tographic and performative autoethnography, with a particular focus on queer reflexivity as a path into more contemplative forms of scholarly activism. Scene 3 problematizes research ethics by bringing queer and disability theologies into conversation with traditional autoethnographic ethics. Scene 4, written in the form of a script, invites the reader into the development of performative autoethnography as a form of queer contemplative activism. Scene 5, also in script form, offers an analysis of the socio-cultural, theological, and reflexive issues that emerge within the performative autoethnographic research process. Finally, the dissertation concludes in Act 2, in video and script form, with the play Intervention. The play serves to integrate the contemplative, theoretical, and artistic research approaches from the earlier scenes into the development of a compelling artistic work. In so doing, this dissertation embraces autobiographical vulnerability, as well as performative and theological ambiguity, as instigators of reflection and conversation both within and outside the academy.

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