Permanence, change and connectivity in the history and historiography of the Eastern Christians
École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris
A traditional approach to Eastern Christianity is related to philology and theology, concentrating on the study of the original texts of each different denomination in the various languages of the Orient. With this kind of approach, Western scholarship helped Eastern Christians to conceive themselves as belonging to a sectarian or ethnical entity, marked off by unbridgeable borders, which clearly distance both from the other Christian denominations and from the Islamic surroundings. The exclusive approach of one specific group has been contested by the “anthropologic turn” of the 80th as well as by a new economic and social history of the Ottoman Empire, which provided the intellectual tools for thinking the Eastern societies in a new way. Borders among different groups became considered as places where a dynamic play of competition, emulation, and mimicry took place, and produced reciprocal identity.
Bernard Heyberger is a historian and an arabist who devoted his research to the study of Eastern Christians under Islam, especially in the Ottoman Syria. He focuses on interaction between the Christian minority and the Muslim society, as well as on the dynamics of contact, opposition and mimicry between Eastern Christians and the West. He gives a special attention to the role of Western scholarship in the building up of sectarian, ethnic and national identities since the 17th century. He is currently a Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and at the École Pratique des Hautes Études.