Panteleeva Anna

The priest and the patient: practices of interaction within the hospital space

Panteleeva Anna (2020) "The priest and the patient: practices of interaction within the hospital space ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2020, vol. 88, pp. 121-132 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI202088.121-132


This article presents results of a fi eld study carried out at Sklifosofsky Institute. Using the obtained results, it analyses the role of a hospital priest both within the space of the hospital, in the system of hospital interaction and in a broader perspective; its aim is to identify reasons for a social tension emerging around the discussion about the lawfulness and necessity of the priest’s presence at hospital. The article employs theoretical framework developed by I. Goff mann and M. Foucault, describes the specificity of interaction of the priest and the patient conditioned by the heterotopic space, examines practices and strategies of interaction in conditions of hospital (these are non-characteristic of the participants), distribution of symbolic power in these relations. Despite the fact that offi cial legal documents declare the right of the priest to conduct religious rites in the territory of hospital, the presence of priests or availability of chapels and churches can provoke mixed reactions in some patients and visitors. This study attempts to give an integrated idea of how the interaction between the priest, patient, visitors, nurses, hospital personnel takes place and to answer the question why mixed reactions arise. Observations have shown that the sourse of mixed reactions is the co-presence of participants of the interaction in the heterotopic space unusual to all of them, which weakens the hierarchic system and disrupts the distribution of symbolic power among the participants. The participants are forced to interact with each other face to face. This face-to-face interaction imposes certain restrictions on them and inspires certain expectations which under these circumstances can only be supported by the voluntary desire to save the face of each participant. The priest is, on the one hand, in a privileged position because his status is maintained by the assistant nurses. On the other hand, his position is vulnerable because the space of heterotopia weakens his right to a special status.


prayer service, heterotopia, Orthodoxy, priest, religion, healthcare, symbolic power


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Information about the author

Panteleeva Anna

Place of work: St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for the Humanities; 6/1 Likhov per., Moscow 127051, Russian Federation;
ORCID: 0000-0002-8559-8878;
Email: panteleeva.a.v@gmail.com.


This article was prepared as part of the project “Religious Leadership in Late Antiquity - Early Middle Ages” of the Ecclesiastical Institutions Research Laboratory (EIRL), STOU with the support of the Development Fund of STOU.