Aaron Eldridge is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Critical Theory at UC Berkeley. Supported by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), his research project—Monastic Life in Aftermath: Formations of Arab Orthodox Christian Asceticism in Lebanon—analyzes the flourishing of Orthodox Christian monastic communities to Lebanon following its civil war (1975-1990).
The dissertation, based on twenty months of ethnographic and archival fieldwork, details the return of Orthodox ascetics to abandoned and centuries-old sites, showing how the uncanny return of hitherto unknown saints in dreams and the discovery of their bodies incites reinhabitation. Focusing on the lived and therapeutic modalities of monastic life’s return—in its liturgical poetics of chant, translation practices, and formations of communal labor—this research both details how the ascetics’ theologically inflected form of life traverses Muslim-Christian difference and becomes persuasive to a generation that is dispossessed of social, political, and economic guarantees. It shows how monasticism, lived as the struggle of the soul to ascend to God, evokes an other-worldly time that parochializes the ruinous aftermaths of Lebanon’s present.
His published research has appeared in Qui Parle (2021) and Exchange (2020). Most recently, his English translation of Abu Ghosh’s “Haifa: War” was published in the blog of Critical Times (2021).