Negotiating the field: American Protestant missionaries in Ottoman Syria, 1823 to 1860
Lindner, Christine Beth
This thesis examines the work of the missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) and the rise of a Protestant community in Ottoman Syria, from the commencement of the missionary station at Beirut in 1823, to the dissolution of the community in 1860. The primary goals of this thesis are to investigate the history of this missionary encounter and the culture of the new community. This analysis is guided by the theoretical framework of Practice Theory and employs gender as a lens to explore the development of the Protestant identity. It argues that the Protestant community in Ottoman Syria emerged within the expanding port-city of Beirut and was situated within both the American and Ottoman historical contexts. The social structures that defined this community reflect the centrality of the ABCFM missionaries within the community and reveals a latent hierarchy based upon racial difference. However, tensions within the community and subversions to the missionaries’ definition of Protestantism persisted throughout the period under review, which eventually led to the fragmentation of the community in 1860. The contribution of this thesis lies in its investigation onto the activities of women and their delineation of Protestant womanhood and motherhood, as an important manifestation of Protestant culture. This work demonstrates the centrality of women to the development of the Protestant community in Ottoman Syria and reveals the complex interpersonal relationships that defined this missionary encounter.