Securing the faith : Syrian Christians in Turkey and Germany.
The thesis is an ethnographic study of Syrian Orthodox Christians living both in South
East Turkey and in Germany as migrants. So far, there has hardly been any ethnographic
research on this community, which belongs to the indigenous Christianity of the Middle
East. As a result of periods of persecution and discrimination throughout their history
Syrian Christians have become a beleaguered minority in Turkey today. Since the 1960s
they have reacted to political pressures and economic hardship by large scale emigration
to Western Europe and other countries. In south east Turkey they are now reduced to a
small enclave of about 2,500 people. In Western Europe, the largest communities reside in
Germany (ca. 45,000 people) and Sweden (ca. 40,000).
The thesis investigates this history of migration and its effects, as represented by the
Syrian Christians, who increasingly refer to themselves as living in a 'diaspora'. The thesis
is based on fieldwork conducted in Tur 'Abdin (Turkey) and in a German immigrant city.
Thus it benefits and suffers from being a 'multi-sited ethnography'. The main focus is
placed on issues of 'community' and forms of self-understanding in a diasporic context.
Senses of diaspora are inevitably intertwined with senses of community 'gained' and 'lost',
and each chapter investigates a vision of community. The chapters explore how these
visions hinge upon memory, location, language and religion, and also the extent to which
differences of age and gender affect the ways in which community and belonging are
This investigation of the discursive parameters of community in a group which has
become more and more dispersed, contributes to the current and ongoing debate in social
anthropology which problematizes the conceptualization of 'culture' or 'society' as