Orthodox Christian Material Culture
Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven
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.
Table of Contents
Prologue; Introduction; Part I – People and place; Chapter 1: British Orthodoxy; Chapter 2: Coming to the Orthodox temple; Chapter 3: Here and 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; Bibliography; Glossary; Index
Timothy Carroll is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK.