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Eastern Christians in Anthropological Perspective$
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Chris Hann and Hermann Goltz

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520260559

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520260559.001.0001

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Eastern Christians and Religious Objects

Eastern Christians and Religious Objects

Personal and Material Biographies Entangled

(p.33) 1 Eastern Christians and Religious Objects
Eastern Christians in Anthropological Perspective

Chris Hann

Hermann Goltz

University of California Press

This chapter shows that in order to understand the efficacy of an icon in a local context it is necessary to examine interaction between and within local social groups, as well as communication with the spiritual world, and also with the world of material objects, which, according to Orthodox theology, is itself divine in its potential. Sensorial experiences and bodily practices are central. In comparison with the privatization that has taken place in Western societies, they have remained public, located in the community. Knowledge is no less central, and some icons are known to have richer “social biographies” than others; their efficacy is related to this “charging.” Hence, although in theory divine intercession can be secured through any icon, there is a strong preference for famous miracle-working images. On a more general level, the specific ways in which Eastern Christians conceive of the invisible world and the material realm, and the objectification of this understanding in contemporary religious practices, suggest a new perspective for their anthropological study, one that acknowledges and reflects Orthodox Christian anthropology itself.

Keywords:   icons, social groups, spiritual world, Eastern Christians, invisible world

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