Thursday, September 29, 2016

How a Quaker Metropolis Became an Orthodox Village

I was invited to give a paper at a conference at Yale this October, which will be the first in a series of papers from the fieldwork that I did with my students in Philadelphia's Greek town. The conference is about liturgical arts and material culture. I will be talking about the 18th/early-19th-century houses, churches, and public spaces left behind by white flight (to West of Broad Street, the Main Line, etc.) and occupied by
 Greeks, African Americans (to the south), and Russian Jews (to the east). The photo above is from the Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia archives. It is the annual Easter festival hosted by the Stephano Brothers at their house in Elkins Park. Here is my abstract

How a Quaker Metropolis Became an Orthodox Village
Material Christianity in Philadelphia’s Greektown, 1900-1930

The modern American city witnessed a great influx of immigrants whose religious traditions differed greatly from the Protestant or Irish Catholic mainstream. Fleeing economic or political hardship, the ethnic migrants did not bring to the U.S. the artistic materiel of their ancient liturgical traditions, but sustained the ecclesiastical needs of their homes by sending remittances to their impoverished villages. How did art and architecture materialize liturgical experiences in the melting pot of the American city? The archaeology of Philadelphia’s Greektown offers insights on how a historically Quaker city became materially Orthodox by a migrant minority. As Philadelphians abandoned their colonial city for the affluent suburbs, the new Greeks shared spatial and artistic experiences with two equally marginal newcomers, Russian Jews and African Americans (studied in great detail by W. E. B. Du Bois). On the opposite side of the transnational story, the archaeology of Greek villages reveals material transformations of Orthodox Christianity back home.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States