Vanguard Revisited: Queer Ritual and World Making in the Tenderloin

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:30 AM
Columbia Hall 7 (Washington Hilton)
Joey Plaster, Yale University
This paper revolves around religious ritual, street youth organizing, and queer world making in U.S. tenderloin vice districts. Drawing on new oral histories and archival research, I consider the significance of a small group of queer street youth and itinerant ministers who in 1966 founded the activist organization Vanguard and also created their own extra-ecclesiastical "street churches" in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. These individuals drew on Christian narratives, iconography, and ritual to reinterpret the emotional impact of social exclusion and structural violence, I argue, opening up opportunities for a variety of challenges to normative assumptions about sexuality, gender, and ability, and representative of an ongoing tradition that is collectively shared and specific to tenderloin districts across the country.
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