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Kapalo, James A. (2008) Text, context and performance: The lay institutions of Gagauz Orthodoxy. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The Gagauz are a minority living in the southern reaches of the Republic of Moldova. While adhering to the majority religion of Orthodox Christianity, their mother-tongue is a variety of Turkish, a fact that in conjunction with their cultural heritage has shaped their religious identity and transformed their religious practices. The aim of this thesis is to explore Gagauz religion from the perspective of lay religious practice. In doing so I take up the ongoing debate on 'folk' or 'popular' religion and aim to demonstrate how, in the case of the Gagauz, the academic category of 'folk religion' and the field of 'folk' religious practice are instrumental in the construction of Gagauz religious identity. This is explored on two levels. Firstly, on the level of the national political, clerical and academic discourse on the origins, ethno-genesis and religion of the Gagauz, and secondly, on the level of practice, examining how Church perspectives and lay agency operate at the micro-level during actual episodes of religious practice. The starting point of this research project is the 'texts' of Gagauz religion. Firstly, the way in which the 'texts' on Gagauz religion generated by scholarly, ecclesial and national political discourse instrumentalise religious identities in the construction of Gagauz national identity is discussed. This is followed by an exploration of how the 'primary texts' of Gagauz religious practice used in worship, healing and prayer shape religious consciousness on the ground. Both sets of 'texts' are explored within the wider social, historical and political contexts that underpin and define them. Finally, the role of 'performance' of the 'texts' in the creation, institutionalisation, and transmission of lay religious practice is considered. Each of these dimensions of text, context and performance highlight the role of language in the contested field of practice of 'folk religion' situated between the lay and 'official' institutions of Gagauz Orthodoxy.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:10

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