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Custodians of descent: religion, kinship, and continuity among Palestinian Orthodox Christians

Goodgame, Clayton Charles (2021) Custodians of descent: religion, kinship, and continuity among Palestinian Orthodox Christians. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004511


This thesis examines the religious life of Palestinian Orthodox Christians in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, a Church composed of a Palestinian parish and a Greek monastic hierarchy. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork in the Old City of Jerusalem and its environs, it provides an account of how Orthodox Palestinians protect the continuity of their society in the face of Greek religious authority, Israeli occupation, and growing economic pressures. In particular, it shows how Palestinians frame their religious and political lives in this context through powerful idioms of descent. My research suggests that for Orthodox Palestinians, Christianity is less about scripture or spirituality than it is about history. More specifically, it is an inheritance passed down from their parents and grandparents and generations of Palestinians before them. Through an ethnography of saints’ festivals, family life, property relations, and religious activism, I describe the ways in which such idioms are articulated and acted upon. I argue that descent is not a feature of kinship alone but the product of a specific history that has tied religious institutions to the Palestinian family in profound and surprising ways. Thus while the thesis is ethnographic in focus it also draws on memoirs, religious tracts, and genealogies in order to highlight how this history unfolded and how it informs contemporary Palestinian life. The first part explores the internal dynamics of the Patriarchate while the second takes a wider view, showing how the Orthodox community has been transformed by larger political and economic forces. The result is an attempt to rethink the concept of descent by demonstrating how it became the defining feature of Christianity’s oldest Church.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Clayton Charles Goodgame
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Cannell, Fenella and Engelke, Matthew

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