Accepted paper:

Clothed in grace: ritual technologies and becoming more than human

Authors:

Timothy Carroll (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the intersection of religious practice and technological enhancement. It explores a process of becoming more-than-human in an Orthodox Christian ritual setting and asks for a collapse in the analytical approach to religious and scientific modes of human enhancement.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the intersection of religious practice and technological enhancement. Within the theological and ritual observations of Eastern Orthodox Christianity there is a recurrent motif of 'becoming'. Orthodox informants expressed that they were still 'becoming Orthodox' and people spoke of 'becoming like' the saints and God. As is true of many salvation religions, much of the focus in Orthodox becoming is apocalyptic in focus, however the use of specific ritual objects, in cooperation with the body, also bespeak a process of becoming more than what one 'naturally' is. While an individual is ordained to the office of the priesthood, and certain social privileges and responsibilities come with that office, much of the sacerdotal ministries of the priesthood cannot be fulfilled by the priest in his own person. To perform various liturgical functions and to perform the sacraments, the priest must have certain items of clothing on his body. It is only in the combination of an ordained priest and the appropriate vestments that, for instance, a priest is able to absolve a penitent's sins. The priest, in his own capacity as a human, is not able to perform said ritual actions; through the addition of specific pieces of cloth to his body, however, he gains the (divine) ability to perform these rites. The paper explores this process of becoming more-than-human in a ritual setting and asks for a collapse in the analytical approach to religious and scientific modes of human enhancement.

panel P12
Being, being human, and becoming beyond human