“Bob Flanagan’s Crip Catholicism: Performing Bodies in Secular Times”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM (ET)
CHS CHS 104 Chase Auditorium
Event Type
Distinguished Visitors Program

Distinguished Visitor Anthony M. Petro, assistant professor of religion and women's, gender & sexuality studies, Boston University

This talk draws upon performance artist and “supermasochist” Bob Flanagan (1952-1996) to consider religion, sexuality, and performance in the secular age. With his partner Sheree Rose, Flanagan created a body of performance that combined sadomasochistic practice with popular Catholic tropes of suffering and the incarnation. His experience with Cystic Fibrosis led to frequent encounters with painful medical tests, proddings, and pokings that, in his accounting, shaped his taste for sexual experimentation. This talk explores how his performance art plays with and against Catholic tropes of sexual repression and devotional suffering – such as when he playfully referred to Jesus as “the first supermasochist” – in ways that blur the line between religion and aesthetics and that offer “crip” enactments of Catholic performance. 

Anthony Petro is assistant professor of Religion and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at Boston University. His first book, After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion (Oxford, 2015), examined the history of U.S. religious responses to the AIDS crisis and their role in the promotion of a national moral discourse on sex. His current project, Provoking Religion: Sex, Art, and the Sacred in Modern America, reexamines the history of culture wars debates about art, gender, sexuality, and religion in the U.S., including how queer and feminist artists have engaged religious themes and ritual in their work since the 1970s. He has published essays on a number of topics, including histories of Catholic sexual abuse, critical disability studies and religion, the religious politics of camp, and approaches to studying race, gender, and sexuality in North American religion. Before coming to BU, Petro served as an assistant professor/faculty fellow in NYU’s Program in Religious Studies and received his Ph.D. in religion from Princeton University.  

Tea at 4:15 p.m.

Sponsored by the Gender and Sexuality Studies concentration and the Department of Religion in conjunction with the Distinguished Visitors Program 

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