Religious market and markets of religious goods

Researcher: Yulia Antonyan


The project is conceived to investigate local specifics of the social and cultural background of the religious market and markets of religious goods in Armenia. The markets of religious goods in Armenia emerge in abundance throughout the country. They are permanently located near or within the pilgrimage places or can be organized on the occasion of a feast. Selling the religious goods can make part of ordinary markets. Churches also develop some internal mechanisms of marketing some goods of direct or indirect religious purpose (candles, calendars with religious iconography, copies of icons, religious literature, religious symbols and souvenirs like crosses, small copies of churches and khachkars (cross-stones), jewellery, paintings, etc.) through priests. The market of religious goods is intersected and intermingled with other types of market and the meanings and functions of the marketed objects should be defined within the particular cultural and social contexts.


The research aims to reveal and analyse the social background of the religious market including the mechanism of its formation, content, structure, and functioning throughout Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.

The research will try to answer the following questions: how the religious «market» in general, i.e. diversity of religious movements in Armenia can affect the variety of goods for religious purposes; how the demand for special religious goods is formed; what are spatial, temporal and social dimensions of the organization of markets of religious goods; how tourism, religion and everyday life are intersected in such markets; how the sacred content of the religious good is defined; what are the main routes of importing or exporting religious goods; who are the formal and informal manufacturers and sellers of religious goods, what are their motivations apart from the pure economic ones; how the institutional economics of the church depends on manufacturing and marketing of religious goods; how religious goods are marketed, etc.


The research will be done in the theoretical framework of our common approach, while the primary methodological focus will be on ethnographic data collection including interviewing and field observation. The analytical part of the research will consider our common hypotheses and draw on the theoretical approaches mentioned above, like substantivism in the economic anthropology. The field will be represented by different types of local markets and small shops where the religious goods are sold, individual and organizational channels of the religious goods’ flows and the sacred (pilgrimage) places where the goods are utilized as objects of the cult. In the process of research, some field work in Georgia (where the market of religious goods is even more developed) may be done. Also, empirical data from the religious markets of other countries will be used.

Collaboration with other group members and contribution to the joint project

The collaboration with other members of the project will include theoretical (exchange of approaches and ideas) as well as practical (sharing information of field specifics). In the case of Armenia and, more broadly the Caucasus, close collaboration with Fehlings, Melkumyan, Khutsishvili and Rudaz will contribute to the holistic anthropological description and analysis of local social and cultural models of informal market regulation and control on micro- and macro-levels with possible interactions and similarities between them.