Planting Eastern Orthodox Monasticism in North America: Controversies in Contemporary Religiosity (Dissertation Project)
Dissertation in Sociology
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Harald Wenzel
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Anne Nassauer
Third supervisor: Prof. Dr. Frank Kelleter
The proposed research intends to discuss the changing aspects of contemporary American religiosity by referring to the group of 19 Eastern Orthodox monasteries founded in the US and Canada within the last 25 years by archimandrite Ephraim, a monk from Mount Athos. These monasteries play a significant role in religious and cultural life in North America but surprisingly get insufficient attention from social scholars in the US and outside.
Using methods of participant observation, interviews and document analysis, I plan to examine ethnographically and sociologically the specifics of this monastic movement in North America, its innovative potential and its contribution to contemporary American religious and secular spheres. By doing this, I intend to discuss the specifics of adaptation of new religious tradition in diaspora, in particular to figure out factors that make an outsider religious tradition legitimate in hosting culture, strategies of adaptation to local religious situation and the role of cultural context in this process. Finally, I plan to study modern North American monastic life, its role and functions in contemporary society; to elicit reasons for people to join monasteries in contemporary America; to study specifics of socialization of new members in a monastic community.
The suggested research of American Orthodox monasticism challenges classical understanding of such concepts as charisma, types of religious organisations, religious discipline, total institutions and makes a contribution to theoretical discussions of post-secular, diaspora and identity, gift theory, innovation and tradition in relation to religious life.