Aaron Hollander

2016
"Holiness" is an odd, unfashionable category in some quarters of the academic study of religion, evocative of romantic excesses and triumphalist explanations. Yet in the lived understanding of people and communities, to this day, the power of people, objects, places, and times identified as holy is undeniable. Rich lines of inquiry have animated scholarship on holiness in the ancient and medieval worlds, and my work is dedicated to turning analogous questions upon modernity. I am investigating in particular how holiness continues to be mediated, that is, inscribed in human societies by way of an array of interrelated media and processes of interpretation and communication. My dissertation attempts to theorize the relationship between the Greek Orthodox theology of holiness and the modern production and consumption of hagiographical media. 
 
The Martin Marty Center, then, is a fitting site for this work on the mediation of holiness as a hinge between imagination and politics, between self- and other-interpretation, between theological understandings and the social institutions in which they are lived out. As I return from six months of fieldwork for my dissertation's principal case study (the entangled and contested figure of St. George in colonial Cyprus), I am delighted and honored to participate in the MMC as a site for collaborative honing of our inquiries in light of their public pertinence. The fieldwork in Cyprus has steeped me in the pragmatic challenges and interpretive undercurrents of conflict and peace in an intercultural setting, revealing that even in the contemporary world, convictions of holiness (and unholiness) are crucial for those committed to religious peacebuilding to appreciate. On this basis and with these objectives, I look forward to contributing what I can to our mutualistic development as a community of researchers and educators.