Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Christian missions and societies in the Middle East: organizations, identities, heritagization (XIXth-XXIth centuries)

The project re-examines the role of the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox missionaries in the cultural and social developments of the Middle East and their interactions with the indigenous communities, from the nineteenth century until today. It seeks to discover and retrace such ‘entangled histories’ for the first time in an integral perspective, going beyond the different national narratives. It envisages a study of the missionary phenomenon and the reactions of the different indigenous communities from a historical and regional perspective.

2017 - 2021

ANR Agence nationale de la recherche

EFR Ecole française de Rome

FSCIRE Bologna Fondazione per le Science Religiose Giovanni XXIII

IFEA Istanbul Institut français d’Etudes anatoliennes

IFAO Cairo Institut français d’archéologie orientale

IFPO Amman Institut français du Proche Orient

MisSMO consortium

Through an historical and anthropological approach, this multidisciplinary collaborative project focuses on the interactions between Europe and the Middle East, throws light on their historical roots.

As the collaboration gathers together experts on European and Arabic history (both from historical, anthropological and religious backgrounds), all the participants will benefit from deeper insights into both regions in order to understand the various encounters. Moreover, approaching the questions of modernity, secularism and religion, which are all crucial to the question of confesionalisation, from both European and Arab perspectives, will help to realize their complex and multi-layered meaning.

Based on several unknown European and Middle Eastern archives, it analyses these fundamental interactions in different case studies in Egypt, contemporary Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Jordan.

The project is subdivided into four subprojects (S). S1 will address the study of the relationship between missionaries and political powers from a regional and global perspective; S2 will focus on the influences of the missions on the redefinition of denominational boundaries; S3 will envisage their role in the construction of male and female models, both Christian and Muslim; S4 will clarify their influence in the development of the knowledge of local societies and the sacred topography of the Holy Land in the Middle East, as well as phenomena of reappropriation and heritagization that resulted from these interactions.

This project will benefit from the expertise of two other granted research projects:

Principal investigators

dr. Karène Sanchez Summerer, UD, Leiden University

dr. Philippe Bourmaud, Associate Professor, Lyon III University and IFEA Istanbul

dr. Séverine Gabry-Thienpont, researcher, IFAO, Cairo

Prof. Alberto Melloni, FSCIRE, Bologna

dr. Norig Neveu, researcher,IFPO (Institut français du Proche Orient), Amman and Jerusalem


  • Conference ‘In partibus fidelium. Ecumenism and knowledge of the Oriental Christianity in missions to the Middle East mission (18th to 20th)’; and workshop ‘Missions and confessionalisation’; in collaboration with the research group ‘Division, Conflict, Cohabitation and Unity: Christian Churches in the Middle East (18th- 20th)’
  • Special Journal issue ‘Missions and confessional borders 19th-21th c.’
  • Conferences in Cairo / Amman ‘Dynamics of power and knowledge production. The role and the challenges of Christian missions in the local process of sacred spaces heritagization’
  • 20 researchers’ field trips in the Middle East
  • Doctoral/ PhD school, Rome, ‘Interconnected history of missions, colonization and globalization processes’
  • Final Conference, Rome, ‘The Social and cultural influences of Christian missions on local Middle Eastern societies; the gender issue’ + special Journal issue
  • Book, ‘Revisited History of the Christian missions in the Middle East since the end of the XIXth century’

Associated researchers

Prof. dr. Heather Sharkey, University of Pennsylvania

Prof. dr. Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen, INALCO

Prof. dr. Heleen Murre-van den Berg, IVOC Radboud University Nijmegen

dr. Armand Aupiais, IFEA

dr. Elena Astafieva, researcher, CNRS, CERCEC Paris

dr. Vittorio Berti, FSCIRE

dr. Géraldine Chatelard, IFPO

dr. Marc Dugas, IFPO

dr. Gaétan Du Roy, Université catholique de Louvain

dr. Aurélien Girard, Associate Professor, Cerhic, Université de Reims

dr. Marie Levant, FSCIRE

dr. Paolo Maggiolini, Assistant Professor, ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di politica Internazionale), Milan

dr. Falestin Naili, IFPO

dr. Maria Antonia Paiano, Università degli Studi di Firenze

dr. Annalaura Turiano, researcher, IREMAM/INALCO

dr. Chantal Verdeil, Associate Professor, Institut universitaire de France and INALCO

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