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Discourse, Identity and Politics: A Transnational Approach to Assyrian Identity in the Twentieth Century
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2012 (English)In: The Assyrian Heritage: threads of continuity and influence / [ed] Önver A. Cetrez, Sargon G. Donabed, Aryo Makko, Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2012, 297-317 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Since the late nineteenth century, secular thoughts have repeatedly resulted in the formation of an Assyrian national identity among oriental Christian groups referred to as "Chaldeans", "Jacobites" and "Nestorians" in the Ottoman and Persian Empires. Despite the fact that some groups or individuals referred to themselves as descendants of the ancient Assyrians prior to the aforementioned arrival of European-styled Nationalist thinking, the majority identified themselves with the emic term suryoye/suryaye (generally translated as "Syrians") only and held no memory of ancient descent.This article seeks to explore how Assyrian identity construction with its central discourse on ethnic continuity has interplayed with socio-cultural processes and political events and changed over time. It address key factors such as World War I and the Assyrian Genocide, the restructuring of the Middle East during the interwar period, migration and life in Diaspora, secularization and state-supported policies of majority identities. The early period (1895-1960) and first Diaspora in the United States is contrasted with latter developments and the second Diaspora including Sweden and the German-speaking countries in addition to the United States from the 1960s until the present day. Focus is laid on the formation and spread of alternative "national" identities under different historical labels. Ideas of ancient heritage and particularly the belief in ethnic continuity were imitated by internal and external agents of new identities which shared one common feature: denying Assyrian heritage of any kind.The study argues that agents of Assyrian identity have been force to uphold the discourse on cultural, lingual and ethnic continuity as a central feature of their identity doctrine until the present day mainly due to being contested by rivalling concepts and their use of the well-established myth about the complete destruction of the Assyrians in 612 BC.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2012. 297-317 p.
, Studies in religion and society (Uppsala), ISSN 1654-630X ; 7
Keyword [en]
Assyrians, Assyrian Identity, Assyrian Diaspora
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-54771ISBN: 9789155483036OAI: diva2:397997
Available from: 2011-02-16 Created: 2011-02-16 Last updated: 2016-09-13Bibliographically approved

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