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Special Issue: Missions, Powers and Arabization in Social Sciences and Missions

This is a Special Issue of the peer-reviewed journal 'Social Sciences and Missions', which provides a forum for exploration of the social and political influence of Christian missions worldwide.

Philippe Bourmaud and Karène Sanchez Summerer
28 November 2019
Volume 32 (2019): Issue 3-4 (Nov 2019): Special Issue: Missions, Powers and Arabization


The modern and contemporary history of the Middle East has been marked by the demographic and political upheavals which took place around the development of States on the model of the Nation-state. The history of the missions in the region, which was long dominated either by their own heroic history or by the dark legend about the spread of European colonial influence, has gradually appropriated, in recent decades, the complex mechanisms of the formation of these new power structures. This issue is an opportunity to further the reflexion on the thorny question raised by historiography: that of the relations between the indigenization of the Churches consolidated by the missionaries and the formation of nations leaving an imperial regime, that of the Ottomans.

Arabization is a sensitive question in the history of the Christian communities in the Middle East in the twentieth century, leading to centrifugal developments in the organisation of the Churches. To approach it through the activity of the missionaries, confronted by the recurring intervention of the local authorities, reminds us that Arabization only exists in the sort of power strategies that go beyond the frontiers of communities.  Arabization is a question of men, of language and of culture. It is both an internal necessity, in the recruitment of the clergy, in the changes in the liturgy and in the notion of pastoral activity, and an external necessity, linked to the constant preoccupation of the civil authorities concerning the (notably pedagogical) activity of the missionaries and the place of the Christian communities in the organisation of societies. The contributions to this issue aim to clarify the evolution of the missionary Churches which appropriate Arab nationalism, as much as the complexity of the social transformations brought about by the process on the scale of Middle-Eastern societies as a whole, beyond the “Oriental” Churches.

The subjects studied here are : the evolution of the Melkite church in Mandate Palestine, the relations between the Vatican and the Oriental Churches in the French Mandate, the influence of the « Arab cultural awakening » among the Salesians in Palestine and Transjordan at the end of the Ottoman period and the beginning of the British Mandate, the missionary policy of the Greek orthodox patriarchate of Jerusalem in the last years of the Ottoman presence, the political developments around Uniatism in Jordan and the evolution of the Salesian schools in Egypt faced with Nasser’s regime and Arab nationalism.

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