Visualising Intangible Sacred Spaces: The Materialities and Ephemerality of Orthodox Jewish Ritual Enclosures in London

Stefano Carnelli

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This practice-led thesis explores the spatial, social, and philosophical implications of London Eruvin. The Eruv (plural Eruvin) is a ritual enclosure created by some Orthodox Jewish communities to circumvent the prohibition of carrying and pushing items in the public domain during Sabbath. Delimited by a fishing wire suspended above the ground it deeply influences the daily life of its users, allowing them to perform tasks as common as pushing a stroller or a wheelchair.

Having introduced the aims, objectives and research questions of the thesis, Chapter One provides an overview on contemporary London Eruvin and their communities. In Chapter Two, I introduce the literature reviewed to explore the key theoretical themes that stand at the centre of contemporary Eruv’s geographical, social, and philosophical implications: the postsecular city and sacred space. Chapter Three presents a practice review of a selection of visual works responding to key themes that resonate with the Eruv and inspired the creative part of my work. The visual approach to the concepts of postsecular city and sacred space is combined with how selected photographers represented the tension between visibility and invisibility. This tension is central to the Eruv. In Chapter Four, I introduce the methodological approach I adopted to address the study of London Eruvin and their communities. The chapter explores how photographic practice, mapping, and visual ethnography have been selected and implemented to study, access and visualise the London Eruv and its communities. Chapter Five provides an overview of the cartographical aspects of the Eruv, exploring how it has been mapped and designed over the centuries through modern times. Chapter Six approaches the exploration of the Eruv on a street level, highlighting the relationship it establishes with the fabric of the city. Chapter Seven addresses how London Orthodox Jewish communities perform through rituals, events, and daily activities within their local Eruvin. Finally, Chapter Eight highlights how the aims and research questions were addressed through the thesis, suggesting further potential developments of the study of the Eruv. The dissertation is accompanied by a companion volume featuring my creative visual work.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Della Dora, Veronica, Supervisor
  • Kent, James, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2024


  • Sacred space
  • photography
  • Jewish studies
  • place and space
  • performativity
  • cultural geography
  • visual ethnography
  • community
  • london

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