Pixelating the Sacred: Digital and Mechanical Reproduction and the Orthodox Christian Icon in the United States
Philosophy and Religion
Drawing upon recent ethnographic research (interviews and participant observation) conducted among members of an Orthodox Christian parish (Orthodox Church in America or OCA) located in the southern United States, I explore the ways that contemporary digital and other mechanical modes of reproduction complicate how contemporary American Orthodox Christians integrate icons, two-dimensional images essential to Orthodox worship, into their devotional lives. While theologians have traditionally emphasized hand-painted icons as fundamental to the Orthodox liturgical experience, mass-produced print and digitally downloaded reproductions have largely supplanted such traditionally crafted images in the lived, everyday experience of American Orthodox Christians. A key theme of this paper is the way these developing technologies enhance the agency of my informants as they make critical decisions regarding which images (within a prodigious visual landscape) to accept as “icons” over and against others simply dismissed and disposed of as mere “pictures.” The inherent tensions informants confront in the process of this decision-making as well as the ways they appeal to Orthodox tradition in sanctifying their iconographic selections will be featured in this article.
Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief
(2019). Pixelating the Sacred: Digital and Mechanical Reproduction and the Orthodox Christian Icon in the United States. Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief, 15(3), 293-321.
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/16468