Carroll, “Orthodox Christian Material Culture: Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven”

Carroll, Timothy. 2018. Orthodox Christian Material Culture: Of People and Things in the Making of Heaven. New York: Routledge.

Publisher’s Summary: 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.

Clements, “Research Note”

Clements, Ben.  2014.  “Research Note: Assessing the Determinants of the Contemporary Social Attitudes of Roman Catholics in Britain: Abortion and Homosexuality.”  Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(3): 491-501.

Abstract: This research note examines the determinants of British Catholics’ social attitudes using a nationally representative survey undertaken in 2010. It examines attitudes towards abortion and homosexuality, issues where the Church has clear moral teachings and has recently intervened in national debates, but where significant proportions of Catholics currently hold dissenting views. Noteworthy findings are the consistent role played by sex, age, and religious commitment in underpinning attitudes towards social issues, while party political support only affects attitudes towards homosexuality. Men, older people, and those who attend religious services more frequently represent the sections of the Catholic community which are particularly likely to hold traditionalist views that accord with official Church teaching.

Collins and Dandelion, “Transition as Normative”

Collins, Peter and Pink Dandelion. 2014. Transition as Normative: British Quakerism as Liquid Religion. Journal of Contemporary Religion 29(2): 287-301.

Abstract: This article presents a consideration of the ways in which current Quaker belief and practice exemplify the condition identified by Zygmunt Bauman as liquid modernity. After a brief overview of Bauman’s thesis, we describe recent patterns of believing within British Quakerism within its socio-cultural context. While belief has been cast as marginal by scholars of this group, with the creation of habitus centred on behavioural codes or values narratives among participants, the way of believing within British Quakerism has rather unusual significance. An ortho-credence of ‘perhapsness’ maintains an approach to believing that is forever ‘towards’, with any truth considered to be solely personal, partial or provisional. From a rationalist liberal faith position, British Quakers have become cautious about theological truth claims that appear final or complete. They accept the principle of continuing revelation, a progressivist theology in which transition becomes sociologically normative. While wider Christianity may be in transition, British Quakers see perpetual modulation (liquifaction) of belief and practice as both logical and faithful.

Jansen and Notermans, eds.,”Gender Nation and Religion in European Pilgrimage”

Jansen, Willy and Catrien Notermans, eds. (2012) Gender Nation and Religion in European Pilgrimage. Surrey: Ashgate Press.

Publisher’s Description: Old pilgrimage routes are attracting huge numbers of people. Religious or spiritual meanings are interwoven with socio-cultural and politico-strategic concerns and this book explores three such concerns of hot debate in Europe: religious identity construction in a changing European religious landscape; gender and sexual emancipation; and (trans)national identities in the context of migration and European unification. Through the explorations of such pilgrimages by a multidisciplinary range of international scholars, this book shows how the old routes of Europe are offering inspirational opportunities for making new journeys.

Kline, “The Quaker Journey”

Kline, Douglas A. 2012. The Quaker Journey and the Framing of Corporate and Personal Belief. Ethos 40(3):277-296.

Abstract: The British Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) illustrates the management of personal and corporate belief and experience without the use of creedal statements or centralized religious authority. This builds on the work of anthropologists like James Fernandez and Peter Stromberg who introduce forms of consensus responsible for maintaining unity in religious communities. While their work expanded anthropological understanding on diverse interpretations of common symbols, this article builds on their observations to show how the use of tropes also encourages unity. Quakers incorporate diversity and a notion of continuing revelation into their communal belief system, and individual participants are encouraged to explore personal belief. Since the Quaker corporate belief model accommodates change, tensions shift to maintaining identity among the theologically diverse interpretations of truth. To accomplish some homogeneity Friends also employ a journey trope to frame diversity and manage the potential tension between corporate and personal understanding.