Loving objects : icons as witnesses and cataloguers of Orthodox women’s memories
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In this M.A. report, I try to understand how modern day women in the United States, who have converted to Orthodoxy, could claim to love an icon. For this purpose, I investigated on-line sources about Orthodoxy, interviewed Orthodox women, and conducted participant observation. Examination of these sources revealed that the internet interconnected congregational, domestic, and other social spaces. It allowed for a complex set of power-shifting relationships – among the converts, the clergy, and other Orthodox women – that shaped the ritual of icon veneration. Relying on interpretive frames provided by the scholars of material culture and lived religion and incorporating my own analysis, I suggest that icons function as witnesses and cataloguers of these women memories. This terminology helps to emphasize that icons allow these female devotees to remember and reinterpret their particular bodily sensations and private emotions and, thereby, produce relatively distinct experiences of the Divine with each specific ritual object. This helps explain, I argue, why some of the converts claimed to love their icons.
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