Clayton Goodgame

Mary Seeger O’Boyle Postdoctoral Fellow and Department of Religion, 2022-2023 to 2023-2024

  • Degree
    Ph.D., Anthropology, The London School of Economics, 2021
    Custodians of Descent: Religion, Kinship, and Continuity among Palestinian Orthodox Christians
    Research Project
    The Orthodox Line: The Transmission of Christianity in the Old City of Jerusalem
Contact Info

Clayton Goodgame is an anthropologist of religion, kinship, and the Middle East. His current research is on the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, a church composed of a Palestinian laity and a Greek monastic hierarchy. It focuses on the religious lives of Palestinian and Greek Orthodox Christians and how they inform wider social and political dynamics in Jerusalem. In particular, Clayton is interested in processes of transmitting Orthodoxy, be it in time, for example through generations of Palestinian families, or in space, through sacred substances like olive oil, spring water, or stone. His current book project, The Orthodox Line, is an ethnographic and historical examination of these processes and how they inform idioms of sacred descent which feature prominently in the political discourse of the church, as well as the wider politics of Palestine/Israel. 

Clayton received his PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics (2021) and recently finished a postdoctoral project on the politics of church property in the Middle East, funded by UK Economic and Social Research Council.  

About the Research Project

The Orthodox Line: The Transmission of Christianity in the Old City of Jerusalem

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem is one of the oldest churches in the world and one of the largest landowners in Palestine/Israel. The relationship between the Greek hierarchy and the Palestinian laity has long been fraught as the lay population has struggled to achieve a greater degree of influence over church administration for over a century, so far without success. The Orthodox Line examines the relationship between the hierarchy and the laity in relation to an idiom they share. This is the idiom of descent, of Orthodox Christianity as a tradition of carrying the divine presence forward in time, from one generation to the next. 

Individuals and societies around the world employ idioms of descent to express a connection to land, the past, and one another. The Orthodox Line attempts to re-evaluate the significance of these idioms by viewing them not only in biological terms but in relation to a wide array of genealogical forms, from saints to property to ancestral land. In bringing these different forms together, the project provides a much more accurate picture of how descent is experienced, articulated, and politicized. The book focuses on the case of Jerusalem, and how the history and institutions of the Orthodox Church have produced a particular way of imagining descent, while also providing points of comparison with many other religious traditions. 

Current Roles

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow