Theses Doctoral

Imagining Antioch: Sectarianism, Nationalism, and Migration in the Greek Orthodox Levant, 1860-1958

Donovan, Joshua

This dissertation examines how Antiochian Greek Orthodox Christians in the Levant and diaspora navigated turbulent political and social upheaval from the late Ottoman era, through the formative years of French colonialism (1920-1946), and into the early postcolonial period of Lebanon and Syria. To highlight communal heterogeneity, I follow a diverse cast of characters, including diplomats, intellectuals, merchants, migrants, journalists, poets, clergy, and political activists to show how sharply Orthodox Christians disagreed about how best to secure a place for themselves in a rapidly changing world of empires and nation-states.

I rely on a polyvalent and transnational collection of sources in Arabic, French, and English including colonial reports, consular files, petitions, largely untapped Arabic language newspapers, memoirs, interviews, personal papers, and literature to show how the production of identity is a fluid, historically contingent, and continual process of construction. First, I argue that Orthodox Christians pursued greater autonomy within an Ottoman framework which simultaneously created new expectations of what it meant to belong to a modernizing Orthodox community.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, innumerable religious and lay leaders claimed to speak on behalf of their community and offered different visions of how to protect and advance Orthodox interests during the French Mandate. The lack of a single shared social habitus combined with colonial partition, a fractured church hierarchy, and the intensification of sectarian politics all contributed to intense divisions within the Orthodox community. This, in turn, fueled efforts by Orthodox Christians to transcend social division through various influential political movements from the 1930s to the 1950s.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Elshakry, Marwa
Khalidi, Rashid
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2022