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Women Scholars of Orthodox Christianity

Stories between Christianity and Islam
A Conversation with Reyhan Durmaz

  • Reyhan Durmaz

    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

  • Ashley Purpura

    Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Purdue University

Published on: April 27, 2023
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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.

Book cover: Stories between Christianity and Islam

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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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

About authors

  • Reyhan Durmaz

    Reyhan Durmaz

    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

    Reyhan Durmaz's research interests include Syriac Christianity, religion and society in late antiquity, hagiography, and Christian-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages. Her first monograph, Stories between Christianity and Islam: Saints, Memory, and Cultural Exchange in Late Antiquity and Beyond (Uni...

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  • Ashley Purpura

    Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Purdue University

    Ashley Purpura is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, a Faculty fellow of the Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts Program, and the Director of the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Purdue University. She received her Ph.D. at Ford...

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Disclaimer

Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in the articles on this website are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

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Public Orthodoxy is a publication of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University