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Title: Christians in Fifteenth-Century Iraq: The Church of the East as a Conceptual Community
Authors: Carlson, Thomas Andrew
Advisors: Brown, Peter R. L.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Church of the East
Conceptual Community
Modern Assyrians
Syriac Christianity
Subjects: Middle Eastern history
Medieval history
Religious history
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Mainstream historical scholarship has largely neglected the social diversity of the medieval Middle East: the vast majority of studies focus on Muslim elites, whether political or religious. Non-Muslim populations have been studied almost exclusively by specialists in the fields of Judaic, Syriac, Armenian, and Coptic studies, often neglecting other populations in the historical context, or by specialists in Islamic studies as dhimmīs from the perspective of Muslim jurists, eliding the distinct experiences of non-Muslims. Yet as late as the sixteenth century Christians were more than a third of the population in northern Iraq. This dissertation examines how one branch of medieval Middle Eastern Christianity, the Church of the East (called "Nestorian" by outsiders), understood the nature of its own community in the fifteenth century. Chapter 1 generalizes Benedict Anderson's work on nationalism to other associations and analyzes the potentials and pitfalls of the analytic use of "conceptual communities" which correspond to social groups. Two chapters put this community in context. Muslim rulers in Iraq and Diyār Bakr provided diminishing levels of patronage to Christians and increasingly enforced most discriminatory regulations on non-Muslims, but not the ban on church construction. Christian sources record only negative interactions across religious boundaries, but they also imply positive contacts, hinting that peaceful discussions and economic exchange occurred alongside nomadic armies' pillaging and mob violence. The remaining chapters analyze the conceptual community of the fifteenth-century Church of the East in light of its theology, ritual, hierarchy, and history. The "Nestorian" label for East Syrian theology misrepresents this community's self-concept, which emphasized worship of the Trinity and a collective relationship with Christ for salvation and present protection. An analysis of communal rituals reveals the textured quality of membership in this community, which was always qualified by an individual's gender, rank, and elective participation. Chapter 6 argues that a Mongol-era clericalist reform failed in the post-Mongol instability, forcing this church to adopt hereditary patriarchal succession as an alternate principle of legitimacy. Finally, Syriac sources emphasize the importance of the communal "deep past" rather than recent events for this minority's self-concept, whether in theology, liturgy, hierarchy, or divine power.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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