Orthodox Christian Material Culture: Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Orthodox Christian Material Culture

Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven, 1st Edition

By Timothy Carroll


196 pages

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pub: 2018-05-29
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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

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



About the Author

Timothy Carroll is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Anthropology

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General