Imagining Antioch

Sectarianism, Nationalism, and Migration in the Greek Orthodox Levant

Joshua Donovan


This book project is the first to analyze the diverse and understudied Antiochian Orthodox Christian community from the late Ottoman era to the postcolonial era through a global lens. The chronological scope of my research follows the small but vibrant Orthodox community through moments of sectarian violence, forced and voluntary migration, the imposition of French colonial rule, the partitioning of the Levant, and finally the solidification of sectarian political systems in Syria and Lebanon which limited Orthodox participation in national politics. While many studies of sectarian communities in the Middle East are narrowly-focused in scope, I embrace a wide geographical, social, and chronological scope that encapsulates formative periods of migration in order to capture diverse forms and contexts of knowledge production that co-existing within a single sectarian group. I argue that to fully understand the history and politics of identity, one must also be attuned to the transnational: people move, borders, change, ideas travel, and identities become caught up in the shuffle. By exploring the production of knowledge and identity within a single sectarian community in the Middle East from a transnational perspective, my research shows that social groups are seldom as tidy and uniform as they may seem. More broadly, I propose a more nuanced way to understand subject formation and religious identity in the modern Middle East that is attentive to imagined geographies and intracommunal heterogeneity.