Drawing of Mor Hananyo Monastery in Mardin. Parry, O.H. Six Months in a Syrian Monastery, being the record of a visit to the head quarters of the Syrian church in Mesopotamia, with some account of the Yazidis or devil worshippers of Mosul and El Jilwah, their sacred book. London, H. Cox, 1895.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: Wednesday, December 15, 2021.

Scholars of the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East have highlighted the complexities of cultural and social life in the empire’s provinces, yet monasticism and monastic life as a social institution remain unstudied. Monasteries have been explored as sites of state cooperation and their leaders as agents of the state, but how can a focus on the social and economic life of monasteries critically reassess themes such as piety, community, and empire?

The church was a critical institution for the physical and spiritual livelihood of Armenians and other Christian communities in Ottoman Anatolia. Monasticism existed interdependent of the church; monks and nuns sustained the church’s labor as spiritual shepherds of their communities and served as material stewards of the land and holy spaces. In particular, gendered aspects of monastic life, including the protocols of sexual and spiritual discipline that shaped intimacy and religious life (e.g. celibacy), offer rich vantage points through which the social fabric of confessional communities comes into view. The multiple social, sexual, and spiritual hierarchies that configured these spaces and the relationships they created have yet to be examined.

This workshop seeks to approach such historiographical lacunae with the following questions:

  • How was monastic life represented by the church, by laypeople, and by the Ottoman state?
  • What did daily life in the monastery entail?
  • How did the practices of monasticism change over time?
  • What was the relationship between spiritual, material, sexual and economic conditions in monasteries?
  • How did monks and nuns represent their work and networks as communal?
  • What relationship does religion, and monasticism in particular, have to conceptions of and claims for sacred geographies?

This international graduate student workshop invites graduate students to present their research around the themes of monasticism, gender, sexuality, religion/spirituality, economy, and community.

Full details here.