The Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University is delighted to present the next episode of its “Women Scholars of Orthodox Christianity” webinar series highlighting the scholarly insights and academic careers of female scholars whose research and writing explore some facet of the history, thought, or culture of Orthodox Christianity.
This episode features a conversation with Reyhan Durmaz. In this talk, Durmaz reflects on her recently published book and her current research projects. In Stories between Christianity and Islam (UCP 2022), Dr. Durmaz investigates the dynamics underlying the transmissions of saints’ stories between Christianity and Islam. By analyzing a broad group of Greek, Syriac, and Arabic texts from the 4th to the 14th century, she revisits the lively scholarly conversations about orality, authorship, authority, and memory in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Through the lens of saints’ stories, their narrators, and their audiences, she argues against literary taxonomies such as “Christian” and “Islamic” texts. She demonstrates that Christian saints’ stories facilitated ongoing conversation between Christians and Muslims about the shared divine past, conceptualizations of sanctity, and communal identities. During her time as the Faculty Fellow at the Orthodox Christian Studies Center this year (AY2022–23), she is working on a new monograph that reconstructs the various forms and expressions of Christianities in the medieval Middle Eastern countryside. The history of Christianity in the Middle East is often studied in light of theological developments and in relation to the presumed dominance of Islam. The book highlights that in rural regions, far from the centers of clerical authority and Islamic influence, Christianity manifested in diverse ways, displaying complex dynamics of religious authority, communal belonging, and ritual practice. In the talk Dr. Durmaz will give examples of material culture and literary sources she uses in her project in order to study Middle Eastern Christianities. Dr. Durmaz is working on two other related projects. In one, she investigates forms of religious skepticism beyond philosophical writings of the elite in the medieval Middle East, with an eye to destabilizing the Eurocentric narratives of secularization and the implied European roots of modernity. For the other, she studies the role Orthodox Christians have played in the making of publics in the U.S. Her analysis of the first Arabic newspaper in North America, Kawkab Amrika, founded by Christians from Lebanon, is forthcoming in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. The talk will address these intertwined projects on Middle Eastern Christians at home and in diaspora.
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