How to Sing with Syriac Christians (and Why): Kinship, Politics, Liturgy, and Sound in the Dutch-Syriac Diaspora

Colloquium | April 10 | 5-7 p.m. | 3401 Dwinelle Hall

 Sarah Bakker Kellogg, Hunt Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion

 Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion

To the extent that Middle Eastern Christians register in Euro-American public discourse at all, they are usually invoked either to justify military intervention in the Middle East for the sake of their “religious freedom,” or they are cited as potential exemptions to policies intended to restrict asylum-seekers from Muslim-majority countries. This binary frame rests on a wide-spread assumption that their Christianity makes them easily assimilable to the so-called “Judeo-Christian” West, an assumption that many Christians from the Middle East reject. In this talk I draw from ongoing ethnographic research with diasporic Syriac Orthodox Christians in the Netherlands to show that it is this very binary framing which poses an existential threat to their 1800 year old tradition. In my fieldwork, I document how second- and third-generation Dutch-Syriac Christians intertwine political activism with liturgical performance to “save” Syriac Christianity from the twin threats of political violence in the Middle East and cultural assimilation in Europe. Through their activism, I argue, they innovate a defiantly immodern convergence of kinship, liturgical sound, and religious ethics in open repudiation of the ethical failures of Western Christianity and European secularism.

Sarah Bakker Kellogg (UC Santa Cruz, 2013) is a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.

 510.642.1328