Beyond ecclesiastical nationalism: agency and selfhood in the Orthodox world – the constellations of contemporary Macedonia and Moldova
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Against the background of an innate imperative for ecclesial unity, the intensifying antagonistic plurality of the Orthodox Church poses an array of research questions. The continuous social relevance of Orthodoxy, as well as the general entanglement of political and religious identities in a number of societies make these research questions not only relevant to theology and ecclesiology, but also to political studies. The current account aims to address one of the fundamental problems of modern Orthodox ecclesiastical governance and that is the issue of Selfhood and agency. Previous literature has linked Orthodox jurisdictional subjectivity with the advent of the modern nation state. Indeed, the institutional architecture of the majority of Orthodox Churches today is almost inextricably connected with this paradigm of political and social organization. However, the link between nation and state on one hand and ecclesiastical particularity on the other proves to be far from universal. In the light of unexplainable from nation-centric perspective cases, the current study attempts to provide an alternative ontology for ecclesiastical Selfhood and agency. The scope of the project covers the contemporary ecclesiastical dynamics in two comparable constellations, these of Macedonia and Moldova. Based on constructivist and poststructuralist theoretical and methodological premises, the study focuses on the discursive practices related with the establishment and/or contestation of ecclesiastical institutions. The analytical comparison between the public discourses, produced by the competing jurisdictions in the two countries, outlines three key articulations crucial for the emergence of particular Orthodox Churches. A nascent ecclesiastical Subject is constructed through an identification with a radical social object/discourse, by articulation of a representative role vis-à-vis certain social group, and by narrating the existing power relations as unjust and/or meaningless. If generalized, these findings put forward a new perspective on the emancipatory and hegemonic practices, which modern Orthodox ecclesiastical governance involves.