Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft

Ritual constructions of the migrant in Syriac Christian writings

As a student of late antique religion, I have long been fascinated by one of Syriac Christianity's most intriguing features: the tradition's early and textually well-supported focus on "strangers" (̈ܐܟܣ̈ܢܝܐ) or migrants in their midst. The latter required care, ecclesiastical leaders from at least the fifth century onward agreed, for their spiritual as well as their bodily well-being. Interestingly, the need and concomitant mandate of care extended even to the souls and bodies of deceased migrants. An article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion in 2019 reflected my initial forays into these topics. In the meantime, I have had occasion to think more deeply about the social and ritual pedagogy surrounding migrants invoked in Syriac Christian writings in the context of my current book project, involving a collection of funerary hymnography. My stay at the University of Tübingen, however, has afforded me time and opportunity to undertake more thorough soundings of textual witnesses to Eastern Christian engagement with migrants; to trace and translate the relevant manuscripts; and to analyze the didactic strategies by which the authors of these works sought to inculcate regard for outsiders who had entered their communities. A recurring motif — the appropriation of key biblical personae as "doubles" for migrants — has become the subject of an article. Less proximately, the research I am undertaking as part of this fellowship will also lay the foundation for a future monograph on migration and ritual in early Christian communities.

For more information about Maria Doerfler, please click here.