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Global Christianity: the Middle East (1800-present)


Admission requirements

  • Basic knowledge of history of Christianity, especially in the Middle East – Basic knowledge of the history of the Middle East


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, for some groups to underline separate identities of Christians and Jews, for others to stress their longstanding participation in the concerns of wider Middle Eastern society, for yet others to maintain and symbolize links with a wider global and ecumenical community, while most juggle intricate combinations of both distance and connection, of integration and separation, of distinct identities, active local participation and transnational and global loyalties.

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 and/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. The choice of case studies is also dependent on the interests of the students, that each will contribute by introducing a particular case.

Readings will mostly consist of scholarly articles that will be made available via Blackboard

Course objectives

  • 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


See Time table

Mode of instruction

Lectures, group discussions, individual work

Assessment method

  • study of reading materials and participation in class (25%) – presentation of case study, based on individual work (25%) – final paper (based on same case study) (50%)
    NB: those who take this course for 10EC are expected to write a more extensive paper, both as to topic as well as methodological reflection.


Yes, see blackboard.

Reading list

A Reading List will be available via Blackboard, approximately three weeks before the start of the course (about August 22, 2011). This list includes readings for the first class.


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

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,
or see the website,
or the weblog.


This seminar is part of the MA Religious Studies, track Christianity, especially for those who intend to specialize in Middle Eastern Christianity or in Christianity in the Modern and Contemporary periods.

In addition, the course may be interesting to those specializing in Middle Eastern History or Comparative Religion.

All students are advised to contact Prof. Murre-van den Berg before the start of the class; if the number of students is limited, the class may be transferred into a tutorial. Also students that would like to participate, but think they may lack specific knowledge, are welcome for advice, e.g. about extra readings to catch up.