Resisting resistance
: ICT adoption within a monastery on Mount Athos

  • Christopher Russell

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Micro-level resistance to meso-level information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives is relatively well-explored. Indeed, Lapointe and Rivard (2007) developed a framework for studying such resistance which revealed the importance of the level and longitudinal aspects of ICT adoption. Less well-explored is meso-level resistance to ICTs, and how such resistance may itself be resisted. In this thesis I construct a conceptual framework to explore just such resistance. I draw upon Parsons, Bourdieu and Elias – theorists first combined by Mouzelis (1995; 2008) – to discern power and resistance across levels in each of three dimensions of social practice: positional, dispositional and figurational. I test out this framework in an extreme, all-encompassing organisation: a monastery of the Monks’ Republic of Mount Athos in northern Greece that chose to resist ICTs. I employ longitudinal ethnography, from 2008 to 2015, so that I capture monks’ changing interpretations, in interviews, and their enactments, via participant observation.
    In the positional dimension of social practice, I find that the meso-level cedes little scope for resistance. However, it is subject to challenge by micro- and macro-level initiatives in the other dimensions of social practice. In the dispositional I find that, although religious and spiritual capital are significant, shaping the monks’ interpretations of ICTs, the social and cultural capital the monks bring from their prior habitus provokestheir adoption of ICTs. In the figurational I find that a mobile phone network’s side-stepping of meso-level resistance enables such adoption. This alliance resulted, by 2015, in twenty smartphones within the monastery. Ultimately, despite meso-level resistance, the fortress-like walls and Byzantine-like borders of Mount Athos fail to keep out ICTs. This thesis, in coming to that conclusion, constitutes the first empirical application of Mouzelis’ work to ICTs and establishes the relevance and suitability of his three dimensions of social practice for studying resistance.
    Date of Award11 Jan 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SponsorsCardiff Metropolitan University & Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism
    SupervisorElaine Harris (Supervisor) & Matt Waring (Supervisor)

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