The Gap in the World: Ascetic Dispossession in Lebanon

Thursday, November 24, 2022 - 14:00
Department of Sociology

The Gap in the World: Ascetic Dispossession in Lebanon

The growing turn toward asceticism among Rum Orthodox Christians offers a unique space from which to view the forms of precarity and dispossession that define contemporary Lebanese life. This talk begins with the efforts of one young community of women monastics to establish a new insurgent monastery on the site of an abandoned restaurant on a religious endowment property (waqf) in the mountains. Their efforts echo the earlier establishment of Rum monastic communities during the civil war (1975-1990), as they draw their spiritual and material struggle into a single thread. This tradition of asceticism, these monastics insist, is not a practice organized around the self, either in its cultivation or in its renunciation. Rather, they present asceticism as a mode of living towards what one monastic elder calls ‘the void’ (aphaneia, literally ‘non-appearance’). The ‘void’ is the gap in the human world. As the ideological order of the world maintains itself in the destructive forces of social abandonment, economic immiseration, and political devastation, the ascetic practice of dispossession turns these forces toward the gap: selling all they have, abandoning their families, and orienting themselves to a collective life of labour and poetic prayer. The ascetic turn toward the gap in the world thus interrupts the structures of gendered sectarianism and capitalist property, figuring a form of life lived at the threshold.

Aaron Eldridge University of California, Berkeley

Department of Anthropology

November 24, 2022 14.00

Via Zoom