Roxana Aras

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9752

Approve Date

October 24, 2018

Project Title

Aras, Roxana M., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Everyday Confessionalism and Olfactory Aesthetics: The Case of the Rum Orthodox in Beirut,' supervised by Dr. Paul C. Johnson

Preliminary abstract: Contemporary Beirut is characterized by confessionalism as both social performance and political ideology, woven in a history of peaceful coexistence and sectarian strife. Disrupting scholarly focus on sectarianism and narratives of violence, I approach confessionalism as a dynamic, everyday social practice that engenders and reflects specific sensory registers, affective dispositions, and cultural categories in multi-confessional Lebanon. The project applies this complex nexus of embodiment, social networks, and lived religion on the case of the Rum Orthodox (Greek Orthodox) in Beirut. Here I ask how members of this Eastern Christian community construct and mediate their identities through sensory regimes, discourse, and material culture in daily confessional encounters. My archival and ethnographic research focuses on two intertwined dimensions in this social reconfiguration of confessionalism. First, it investigates how Rum Orthodox authenticate their religious identity through a sensorial aesthetics that intertwines physical properties of odors, particular ethical sensibilities, and scripted traditions. Second, it explores how olfactory codes mediate inter-confessional encounters, indexing matters of class and socio-political allegiance in Lebanon, after the Civil War of 1975-1990. In this frame, the Rum Orthodox sensorially negotiate their status as a religious minority in everyday social interactions, within the confessionalized urban geography of Beirut, and through narratives of war and its present lingering effects. This research thus argues for sensorially-attuned narratives on confessionalism in Lebanon and adds to an emerging literature on the everyday life and practices of Arab Christians in the Middle East.