Inspiration can be found in a number of places. For John Keirouz ’22, it was at home. The son of a Lebanese immigrant, Keirouz described how he became interested in his father’s desire to stay in touch with his homeland. “He always reads [Lebanese] news, seeing what’s going on there in terms of home affairs, âKeirouz said. âHe wants my brother and I to know what’s going on. “
This led Keirouz to ask the question that would ultimately inspire his research project on the Emerson Grant: How do people relate to their homelands once they no longer live there? And after taking a two-semester Russian history class with Professor Shoshana Keller, Keirouz found a group to focus on. âI wanted to look at the millions of people who left Russia as a result of the Russian Civil War,â he said.
However, Keirouz soon realized that this topic would need to be clarified further. âThese Russian emigrants were found everywhere,â he explains. “[The project] would be so general that it wouldn’t do anything. Thus, he turned to religious communities, eventually landing on the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Orthodox Church of America (OCA).
âI wanted to look at these Russian religious communities and how their different experiences affected their relationship with the United States and the way they tried to organize and run their churches,â Keirouz said.
Keirouz argues that the differences in the way ROCOR and OCA operate can be attributed to the way churches conceptualize themselves. ROCOR came to seek refuge in the United States, Keirouz noted, having been expelled from Russia and Yugoslavia in previous years. For this reason, ROCOR tries to keep alive “what makes Russia special” and to maintain the unique practices of Russian orthodoxy, he said.
A little differently, the OCA sees itself as an immigrant church, Keirouz explained, adding that this perception made the OCA more “willing to change elements of its liturgical practice for the good of an American public.” In this way, the OCA would appeal to both Americans who might want to join their church and others of Eastern Orthodox faith but from different ethnic groups, such as Greeks, Bulgarians and Arabs.
Keirouz began his research by examining more general sources on Russian emigration and the Churches before moving on to more “argumentative” sources. âI would read people in ROCOR justifying its canonical position, for exampleâ¦ I would read people in the OCA explaining why, say, there should be only one diocese in a city,â he said. “Those [sources] This is where I get deeper into the weeds of real opinions and disagreements. “
As with all Emerson grant projects, Keirouz’s work will end with an article and presentation. In terms of post-Hamilton plans, he has his eyes on academia. âI would like to go to a competitive history program, get a doctorate, and then see if I can actually become a professor,â he said.