The Eastern Orthodox Arab speaking Community
Edited by: Haris RigasBuy
There is a tendency to think of nations and ethnic groups as if they were homogeneous groups brought together by similarities in language, religion, and customs. But nothing is further from the truth than this claim, as my lived experience and any reasonable study of the past reveal. Moreover, the trend towards homogenization bears the danger of ignoring the survival strategies, cultural heritage, and function of the communities that are caught between different and competing forms of belonging, and reside at “border crossings” between different political, religious/sectarian or ethnic groups.
A collective publication on the Arabic-speaking Eastern Orthodox of Antakya is actually a long overdue project. Despite its great contributions to Byzantine, Ottoman, Syrian and Turkish cultures, this ancient community is largely an overlooked topic in the international scientific community. This book brings together for the first time the work of experts from different fields, illuminating the different dimensions of this community’s past and present experiences.
In the first part, Haris Rigas examines the Arabic-speaking Eastern Orthodox as a diaspora and evaluates the historical formation of their identities in reciprocity with the opportunities and threats revealed by two modern political movements such as Kemalism and Baathism. In the second part, Şule Can and Zerrin Arslan examines the current reality the community is facing in its homeland, Antakya, through in-depth interviews with the members of the community. In the third part, Özgür Kaymak and Anna Maria Beylunioğlu focus on the community members who live in Istanbul and the forms of belonging they sense during the difficult integration process into the Istanbul Greek society, while Polina Gioltzoglou presents the reader with a participatory observation study she conducted in the village of Tokaçlı, in which she examines the interaction between material culture, culinary practices, and belonging.