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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

American Ottomans: Protestant Missionaries in the Service of an Islamic Empire
by Gorman, Henry, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 2019, 277; 22620808
Abstract (Summary)

9/11 and the wars which followed have called historians of both the United States and the Middle East to seek the origins of America’s relationship with the Islamic world. The prevailing historiographic consensus presents America’s present-day policies in the Middle East as products of an exceptionalist American orientalism emerging from European traditions and hostile foundational encounters. Other historians have expertly chronicled and catalogued 19th century Americans’ Islamophobic writings and actions. My research shows that a hidden history of complicity accompanied this hostility. American Ottomans uses archival materials in English, French, and Arabic from collections in the US, UK, and Lebanon to trace how a community of American missionaries operating in Beirut adapted their evangelistic and educational projects to the Ottoman Empire’s social and political hierarchies.

The introduction of American Ottomans presents its historiographic stakes and distinctive methodology. The first chapter examines how American missionaries’ quest for authority and security informed their search for linguistic, geographic, and political knowledge. To acquire local notables’ mystique, missionaries adopted their intellectual frameworks and ideologies; to secure funding from home, they concealed their knowledge’s origins. The second chapter argues that political conflicts in their homeland and mission field helped missionaries and their Syrian converts to forge alliances with New York industrialists and Ottoman bureaucrats. The third shows that Ottoman ideas about education shaped the missionaries’ first college, and that the missionaries’ adaptations cemented their Syrian Protestant College’s place in the vibrant Eastern Mediterranean public sphere. The fourth explains how mass migration from Syria to the New World and financial panic in the US strained the Mission’s finances, shook its relationships with its Syrian workers, and reshaped its schools to serve a rising multi-religious Ottoman middle class’s ambitions. The fifth illustrates how the missionaries protected their institutions throughout the First World War, imagined an American colonial mandate in Syria, strengthened their bonds with local merchants and aristocrats, and found a niche in the new colonial order. The conclusion traces long-term legacies of the Syria Mission’s participation in the Ottoman order, including the US-Saudi alliance, ARAMCO, and the American University of Beirut.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kramer, Paul
Commitee: Igo, Sarah, Halevi, Leor, Sharkey, Heather
School: Vanderbilt University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Tennessee
Source: DAI-A 82/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Archaeology, European history, Middle Eastern Studies, Materials science, American history, Political science
Keywords: History of Capitalism, Missionaries, Ottoman Empire, Protestantism, US and the Middle East
Publication Number: 22620808
ISBN: 9798582546214
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