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Christianity in the Middle East (1800-present)


Admission requirements

In addition to a BA-degree in Religious Studies, Middle Eastern Studies or a degree in one of the languages of the region, students are expected to have a basic understanding of the history of Christianity and the history of the region.


Christianity in the Middle East (1800-present)
Theme: Language and Religion

Against the background of a general introduction into the recent history and contemporary situation of Christians in the Middle East, this course will focus on the various ways in which language and religion are interconnected within the Christian communities of the region.

The series will start with an overview of the wide range of languages that are used side by side in the Christian communities (Arabic, Turkish, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic; many of these in different dialectal or historical forms; alongside French, English, German, Italian and Russian) and continue with a brief introduction into the ritual and theological interpretations of language within Christianity. In the following four sessions, the various ritual, theological and nationalist connotations of these languages will be studied, taking into account the ideological interpretations of the Christian elites, secular and clerical. The transitions from the early modern into the modern and contemporary periods throw further light on the dynamics of language and religion.

In the second half of the class, the subject will be further explored by tabling a number of case studies that delve deeper into the dynamics of specific regional or communal linguistic circumstances, e.g., the Syriac Christians of North-Iraq, the Armenians of Turkey, the Maronites of Lebanon, the Greek Orthodox of Aleppo and the Protestants of Palestine.

Course objectives

After completing the course, students will have – up-to-date knowledge of the recent history of the Christian communities in the Middle East; – familiarity with current historiography on the Christian communities and the various methodological and ideological approaches that define it; – up-to-date knowledge about the historic and current linguistic situation of the Christians in the Middle East; – insight in the symbolic importance of discussions about language within the Christian communities; – enhanced their research skills, which include practicing the collection, selection and use of a wide range of primary and secondary sources, developing research hypotheses, build up scholarly arguments, as well as practicing oral and written presentations.


12 sessions of two hrs in semester I (Sept. – Dec. 2010)

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • contribution to class discussion – essay on one of three methodological themes discussed in the first half of the semester – Presentation on one of the case studies – Paper on one of the case studies, comparing it with one or more of the other case studies.


Yes – see early August

Reading list

See Blackboard (August)


Via uSis.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

H.L. Murre-van den Berg (


Minimum of five participants