Boundaries and borders: choreographies among Christians in Jerusalem
Georgios Tsourous (University of Kent)
Paper short abstract:
The study discusses the politics of ownership and appropriation of a shared religious heritage space, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. By employing a materialist view the study examines diverse attitudes of the communities towards the Church's sacred localities.
Paper long abstract:
The study discusses the politics of ownership and appropriation of shared religious heritage spaces, that is sacred sites visited by followers of diverse religious communities, in the context of a major shrine of Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (called Anastasis) in the Old City of Jerusalem. The site is located in a contested city amidst political conflict, itself marked as a protected Christian holy site subjected to Jerusalem's Status Quo. Within the Church, fragile legal agreements between different international Churches and the intersection of ethnicity and theology, create a complex reality of overlapping borders, strict time-schedules and a fragile coexistence among the resident communities. The presence of thousands of pilgrims and tourists that visit the site daily, further promotes the negotiation and enforcement of borders around sacred localities by the resident custodians. By drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the Church, the study examines diverse attitudes of the communities towards the Church's sacred space and traces intra-communal boundaries and borders. The study employs a materialist view arguing that any examination of the ways borders have been shaped in the Anastasis will benefit from considering the material aspects of religious practices as these shed light onto how people perceive similarities and differences across boundaries and borders. By exploring how various actors negotiate boundaries and borders around a major sacred site, this study makes a novel contribution to discussions of contemporary religious heritage spaces as well as to debates in anthropology of religion and its material culture.
Religious heritage spaces: disputes and convergences