Accepted Paper:

Peripheries of Eastern Christianity: the Greek Catholics of Western Ukraine  
Vlad Naumescu (Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

The case of Ukrainian Greek Catholics discussed in this paper illustrates patterns of evolution of an Eastern Christian tradition. The mechanisms of reproduction and change embedded in the local tradition correspond to particular modes of religious transmission.

Paper long abstract:

At a first glance Eastern Christianity appears as the most conservative of the main Christian traditions and this is also the self-image of its constituent Churches. Apparently isolated from historical transformations, Eastern Christianity evolved over time into a variety of local traditions shaped by local religious practices and beliefs. However, a certain degree of uniformity in both practice and beliefs bonds the 'imagined community' of Orthodoxy together (rather than authority or doctrine as in the case of other Christian traditions). Here the variety of religious expressions is the result of the different modes of religious transmission (from which iconography is just one example) and the borders between practical and doctrinal religion are blurred. As any religious tradition Eastern Christianity has its own modalities of adjustment to changing social conditions, embedded mechanisms of reproduction and change.

The ethnographic material for this paper comes from Western Ukraine, a region at the intersection of two great religious traditions, Eastern and Western Christianity. To grasp the particularity of the local religious tradition some authors referred to it as a 'religion of the margins' [une religion des confines], a place of religious plurality and confessional fluctuation. The case of Ukrainian Greek Catholics illustrates well the 'ambiguity of peripheries' and the continuous move between the two attraction poles: East and West. Postsocialist Ukraine has seen the revival of 'traditional' Churches alongside new religious groups developing a remarkable religious pluralism. Still believers tend to go beyond recently-built confessional borders by transporting their practice and expectations to different churches as different places of prayer and remaining thus 'unchurched'. The local religious tradition shapes institutions (new and traditional alike) but it is also modified through constant interpretation and negotiation.

Panel W031
New perspectives on 'European' Christianity