Christian C. Sahner
Fields of Study: Islamic History, Late Antiquity, Middle East
Advisors: Peter Brown, Michael Cook
I study the Middle East, in particular, the transition from late antiquity to the early Islamic period, relations between Muslims and Christians, and the history of Syria. I nurse a side interest in the culture and politics of the modern Arab world.
I received my AB summa cum laude in Art and Archaeology from Princeton in 2007. I then studied as a Rhodes Scholar at St John’s College, Oxford, where I earned my M.Phil with distinction in Arabic and Byzantine Studies in 2009. After, I returned to Princeton, earning an MA in History with distinction in 2011. In 2012, I completed advanced Arabic and Syriac language study at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Beirut.
My doctoral dissertation explores the roots of sectarian conflict in the early Islamic Middle East using a collection of Christian hagiography written in Arabic, Greek, Syriac, Latin, and Georgian. Through these biographies of martyrs, I track the causes of violence between Muslims and Christians, as well as the manner in which Christians came to understand themselves as a minority through memories of conflict.
My essays on the culture and history of the Middle East have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, I am the author of the forthcoming book, Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (Oxford University Press/ C. Hurst & Co.), an introduction to the war-torn country that blends elements of history, reportage, and memoir from my time in the region.
I have served as a instructor for Jack Tannous in “The World of Late Antiquity,” and for Bernard Haykel in “The Politics of Modern Islam.” I currently serve as one of the conveners of the Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium. In December 2013, I organized a half-day conference entitled "Syria's Heritage in Crisis," with Prof. Stanley Katz of the Woodrow Wilson School.
Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (Oxford University Press/ C. Hurst & Co., September 2014)
“Old Martyrs, New Martyrs, and the Coming of Islam: Writing Hagiography after the Conquests,” in: Cultures in Motion: Studies in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, eds. Adam Izdebski & Damian Jasiński, Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press, 2014, pp. 89-112.
“From Augustine to Islam: Translation and History in the Arabic Orosius,” Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 88, 4 (2013), pp. 901-935.
Review article: “Ecumenical Islam,” (review of Fred Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam) The Times Literary Supplement, 1 July 2011.
“Hierusalem in Laterano: The Creation of Sacred Space in Fifth Century Rome,” in: New Jerusalems: Hierotopy and Iconography of Sacred Spaces, ed. Alexei Lidov, Moscow: Indrik, 2009, pp. 103-130.
“Islamic Legends about the Birth of Monasticism: A Case Study in the Late Antique Milieu of the Qur'an and Tafsir,” in: Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Early Medieval Mediterranean World, ed. Robert Hoyland, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam, Princeton, NJ: The Darwin Press (forthcoming, 2014)
“Between Persecution and Prosecution: Christians and the Law of Apostasy in Early Islamic Society,” in: Legitimacy and Legitimation of Political Authority in the Early Islamic Period, eds. Annlies Nef & Vivien Prigent, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam, Princeton, NJ: The Darwin Press (forthcoming, 2015)
Essays and Comment (select)
“Saving Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, 20 August 2012
“Artistic Continuity, Political Rupture,” Exhibition review, Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Wall Street Journal, 17 May 2012
“Islamic Civilization in the Making: Qusayr ‘Amra, Jordan.” The Wall Street Journal, 27 November 2010
“A Sparkling Crossroads: The Umayyad Mosque of Damascus.” The Wall Street Journal, 17 July 2010