Temenos lecture 2023

Sarah Riccardi-Swartz: “Only Russia Can Save the World”: Reactive Orthodoxies, Political Technology, and Religious Worldbuilding

Time: 11.12.2023, 18:00

Place: online,

How is religious conversion transforming American democracy? In one corner of Appalachia, a group of American citizens has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church and through it Putin’s New Russia. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and digital content analysis, this talk highlights an intentional community of converts who are exemplary of much broader analogue and digital networks of Russian Orthodox converts in the United States. Offering insights into this rarely considered religious world, including its far-right political roots that nourish the embrace of Putin’s Russia, this talk shows how religious conversion is tied to larger issues of social politics, allegiance, (anti)democracy, and citizenship. Centering the conversation around the relationship between digital media and religio-political conversion offer us a window onto the shifting technological dynamics of both global politics and foreign affairs, while also allowing us to see how particular U.S. communities are grappling with social transformations through digital communitas in the global context. This lecture is based on both the recently published book Between Heaven and Russia: Religious Conversion and Political Apostasy in Appalachia and a current manuscript project on digital dissidents and religio-fascism in the contemporary United States.

Sarah Riccardi-Swartz is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Anthropology and an affiliate faculty member in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University. She has an M. Phil and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from New York University. An interdisciplinary scholar, she also holds a B.A. and M.A. in Religious Studies from Missouri State University, plus a graduate certificate in Culture and Media (ethnographic filmmaking) from NYU. Her research focuses on far-right politics, media worlds, and Orthodox Christianity. Her first book is Between Heaven and Russia: Religious Conversion and Political Apostasy in Appalachia (Fordham University Press, 2022).