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Education, Agency, and Subject Formation at Turning Points in Middle Eastern Christian History

Education, Agency, and Subject Formation at Turning Points in Middle Eastern Christian History

Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

This session features four historical studies on Middle Eastern Christianity in the premodern and modern periods focusing on questions of pedagogy, education, and the study of Middle Eastern Christianity from the perspective of Middle Eastern Christians themselves. The session focuses particularly on questions of self-identification, agency, and subject formation.


  • The Translation Movement of Eighteenth-Century Aleppo and the Creation of the Middle Eastern Catholic Churches


    While almost anyone who knows Middle Eastern history has some understanding of the ‘Abbāsid translation movement, and many know something about tthe various translations of the nineteenth century and beyond, this presentation discusses a far less studied Arabic translation movement. This movement reached its zenith in the early eighteenth century and took place primarily in the city of Aleppo. It involved the translation of dozens of theological, devotional, and historical works from European languages into Arabic at the hands of both European missionaries and Syrian Christians. This was an important part of the creation of the modern Uniate Churches of the Middle East, even as the more established Maronite Church also played a key role. I will survey some of the key texts and figures of this movement, such as its most prolific translator, the humorously-named French Jesuit Pierre Fromage. The types of texts chosen for translation, and their fates in Arabic literature (often very different from their fates in Europe!) can tell us a great deal about the scholarly landscape of the early modern Middle East, at the dawn of serious European intervention in the region.
  • “Education, Pedagogy, and Subject Formation in the Greek Orthodox Christian Community of Bilad al-Sham”


    As foreign missionaries expanded their efforts in the Levant during the 19th century, the region’s indigenous Christians grappled with how to respond. This paper focuses on efforts by Greek Orthodox Christians to establish parochial schools, curricula, and social institutions aimed at educating their coreligionists and developing a “modern” civic identity. Drawing on an array of Arabic language newspapers, institutional records, personal papers, and didactic writings produced by Orthodox women and men, this study examines the efforts of local Christians to construct and impart distinct epistemological frameworks on Christian youth across gendered, class, and geographic lines. This paper considers Orthodox efforts in the late Ottoman era and the French Mandate, offering a comparative approach that sheds greater light on the relationship between Arab Christians and foreign missionaries. By competing against missionary institutions during the Ottoman period and working to transform them during the French mandate, I argue for a more complex understanding of missionary encounters that places Orthodox educators and pedagogues at the center of a dynamic intellectual and social history.
  • Uncovering Agency: Christian Women and Personal Status Laws in Palestine


    Even though Christianity came out of the Middle East, very few scholars of Middle Eastern Christianity have conducted comprehensive studies of the region. The majority of scholars of Christianity in the Middle East tend to highlight religious and women’s oppression, especially in relation to the larger Islamic context. Scholars, furthermore, often focus on the *Dhimmi* status of Christians, thus rendering Christians in the Middle East as a passive community. Through a case study on Palestine, this paper examines how Christian communities, and Christian women in particular, make themselves known through their actions, and whether their self-understandings or their daily lives fit into Western notions of agency. Using a Lutheran Court as a case study, this article argues that we can shed new light on Christian identity and gender dynamics in the Middle East through examining the interaction between *Shari‘a* (Islamic law) and Christian personal status laws. Through understanding this interaction, we are able to change our understanding of agency to fit the context and social circumstances of Christians in the Middle East, which enables us to begin to see signs of agency everywhere.

Audiovisual Requirements


LCD projector

Full Papers Available

Program Unit Options

Session Length

2 Hour Session
Schedule Info


Tuesday, December 8, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM (EST UTC-5)


Greek Orthodox
Middle East
Middle Eastern Christianity