Although much has been written on the making of art objects as a means of engaging in creative productions of the self (most famously Alfred Gell’s work), there has been very little written on Orthodox Christianity and its use of material within religious self-formation. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is renowned for its artistry and the aesthetics of its worship being an integral part of devout practice. Yet this is an area with little ethnographic exploration available and even scarcer ethnographic attention given to the material culture of Eastern Christianity outside the traditional ‘homelands’ of the greater Levant and Eastern Europe.
Drawing from and building upon Gell’s work, Carroll explores the uses and purposes of material culture in Eastern Orthodox Christian worship. Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork in a small Antiochian Orthodox parish in London, Carroll focusses on a study of ecclesiastical fabric but places this within the wider context of Orthodox material ecology in Britain. This ethnographic exploration leads to discussion of the role of materials in the construction of religious identity, material understandings of religion, and pathways of pilgrimatic engagement and religious movement across Europe.
In a religious tradition characterised by repetition and continuity, but also as sensuously tactile, this book argues that material objects are necessary for the continual production of Orthodox Christians as art-like subjects. It is an important contribution to the corpus of literature on the anthropology of material culture and art and the anthropology of religion.
Preface (by way of apology)
Notes on Language Usage
Part I – People & Place
Chapter 1: British Orthodoxy
Chapter 2: Coming to the Orthodox temple
Chapter 3: Here & There
Part II – Materials
Chapter 4: Making sacred space
Chapter 5: Materials of transformation
Chapter 6: Materials of ikonicity
Part III – Making Heaven
Chapter 7: Becoming an Ikon
Chapter 8: Ikonicity
Chapter 9: Becoming Orthodox, Making heaven
Epilogue: All Saints Barking of the Spice Rack
Diagram of St Æthelwald’s Parish Church