Mashriq & Mahjar 8, no. 1 (2020)
ISSN 2169-4435

Fiona McCallum Guiney


This special issue analyzes the contemporary experiences of Middle Eastern Christian communities in Europe. Migration continues to be one of the most salient topics in global politics with Europe hosting 78 million international migrants.[1] Since 2014, there has been a significant influx in the number of migrants crossing into Europe using the various Mediterranean Sea routes and the Balkan land route, peaking at 1.8 million in 2015 compared to around 90,000 in 2013.[2] While some states and their citizens such as Germany and Sweden were initially welcoming towards migrants, the mass numbers also led to media coverage, populist protests, and anti-immigrant rhetoric espoused by political actors, especially those on the political right who were concerned at perceived threats posed by migrants to the economic, cultural, and security environment in Europe.[3] This securitization of immigration particularly focused on the perceived threat of faith-based groups, most notably Muslims, who in 2016 were 4.9% of the European population.[4] While Islam has had a presence in Europe for centuries, most Muslims in contemporary Europe are either migrants or the descendants of migrants who arrived in the years since World War II. Thus, it is not surprising that the literature has concentrated on Islam and migration, with a particular focus on identity, integration, values, and extremism.[5] Scholars have explored smaller groups such as Hindus and Sikhs in relation to their links with their homeland and migration experiences.[6] The faith groups explored in the following articles—Middle Eastern Christians of diverse denominations—are rarely addressed by either academia or policymakers. Indeed, given that in many European national contexts these communities can be seen as a “minority within a minority,” they are often almost invisible to national policymakers, media, and society.[7] 

The case study of Middle Eastern Christians provides the opportunity to examine a faith-based group that encompasses shared religious identity but ethnic differences. Therefore, it may be more appropriate to term them as faith-based groups in the plural. On the one hand, the Christian heritage of Europe, which is manifested in its institutions and values, may provide common ground with faith-based migrants who share the same religion. On the other hand, cultural difference can also be revealed through customs and heritage from other geographical regions and may negate connections founded upon a common faith-based identity. The following articles explore how Middle Eastern Christians focus on their religious identity as a means to strengthen a sense of belonging in their new societies, yet often struggle to be accepted due to racist and Islamophobic currents in European countries. By doing so, the authors explore how narratives and perceptions within Middle Eastern Christian migrant communities influence their interactions in European society.

In recent years, there has been an upsurge in academic literature on Middle Eastern Christians with the slow formation of an additional subfield of Middle Eastern Christian diaspora studies as a response to sustained migration and the establishment of global diaspora communities.
[8] While the first wave of Middle Eastern Christian migration took place between the 1860s and 1920s, predominantly from present-day Syria and Lebanon to North and Latin America, it is the more recent wave since the 1950s that has led to academic focus on this phenomenon.[9] Migrants move for diverse reasons, sometimes in great urgency due to humanitarian crises, at other times for individual economic gain or to provide financial security for relatives left behind.[10] Social networks encourage individuals to follow family and friends to particular destinations.[11] While official statistics are difficult to obtain due to the lack of relevant census information and tendency of community organizations to inflate figures, Schmoller estimates that there are 7.7 million Middle Eastern Christians located outside the region, with slightly over 500,000 residing in Europe.[12] 

Academic studies have focused primarily on the main centers of immigration—United States, Canada, and Australia—concentrating on the development of diaspora communities and political activism in relation to their homelands.[13] Regarding Europe, the majority of studies (out of an extremely small field) focus on the largest case study of Sweden, which has over 120,000 Middle Eastern Christians.[14] Literature on other European countries is extremely limited and tends to focus on Assyrian/Syriac communities.[15] One contrast is the United Kingdom (UK), where Stene has conducted extensive fieldwork with the Coptic Orthodox community and Shakkour has focused on the development of the Palestinian Christian community.[16] 

This special issue extends these discussions to new case studies and themes. The papers arose from a series of workshops and conferences organized by the researchers on the “Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christian Communities in Europe (DIMECCE)” project, funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) Network.[17] This project was the first interdisciplinary and collaborative project to comparatively study both Middle Eastern Christian case study communities and European case study countries.[18] In this special issue, the contributors continue the predominant trend of approaching the topic through a country focus, using case study countries that are not normally studied due to small populations of Middle Eastern Christians but still provide useful insight into the relevance of faith, ethnicity, and culture in negotiating place and interactions in a new society.

Identity is used as a framework for this special issue, particularly religious, ethnic, and national identity. Despite contestations regarding the suitability of identity as an analytical lens due to its ambiguity and vagueness, the term remains salient due to the lack of alternatives.
[19] According to Abdelal et al., identity is seen as relational in terms of “self” and the “other,” “to the extent that it is composed of comparisons and references to other collective identities from which it is distinguished.”[20] Consequently, similarity and difference are the two crucial components when practicing identity. Where there is an in-group, it follows that an out-group has also formed. This does not necessarily mean that groups must be in conflict with each other but instead that the contrast acknowledges the differences with the out-group and highlights the similarities within the in-group.

While groups certainly play a significant role in shaping their identity, external recognition is also significant. Jenkins argues, “It is not enough simply to assert an identity; that assertion must also be validated, or not, by those with whom we have dealings.”[21] The state plays an important role in determining whether groups are recognized or not. However, societal actors also bestow recognition. Categorization from external actors can also lead to error and misrecognition with individuals being included in a group which they do not self-identify with, as is seen in the case study communities.[22] 

The element of contestation within a group is emphasized by Abdelal et al., “The content—the collective meaning—of identities is neither fixed nor predetermined. Rather, content is the outcome of a process of social contestation within the group.”[23] This fluid approach opens up the possibility that identity groups can be in flux and can be negotiated and renegotiated. Furthermore, important for the case studies of Middle Eastern Christians, identity scholars recognize that individuals have multiple identities. Crisp and Hewstone claim that “one of the most obvious characteristics of social categories is, moreover, that they can overlap, sometimes ‘converging’ so that another person is classed as a member of the outgroup, ‘them,’ not just on one, but on several dimensions.”[24] These identities may be compatible or conflicting and may be prioritized in certain contexts. Additionally, some identities may be harder to downplay or discard, such as those that Deaux terms “visible identities.” This includes ethnicity, which is a prominent theme in the discourses of Middle Eastern Christians in Europe.[25] 

The phenomenon of migration has added a further layer to empirical work on identity. Migration by its very nature introduces new groups into existing society, leading to pluralism. Simon and Klandermans argue that while this diversity can be positive in terms of increasing diversity and gaining new ideas, diversity can also result in a backlash from some parts of society, especially on the ideological right, over perceived threats to societal values.[26] Furthermore, for the group migrating to another territory, it has the potential to add additional identities leading to further cross-categorization. The articles in this special issue follow the transnational migration approach advocated by Faist, Levitt, Glick-Schiller, and Vertovec, who acknowledge that migrants are not only affected by ties to their country of origin and country of residence but also participate in multistranded social relations that may occur in several and different kinds of places across several countries.[27] While there are many identities applicable to individuals in the case study communities, such as gender, class, age, migrant generation, etc., the articles focus on three key identities—religious, ethnic, and national.

Religious identity is clearly significant given that the case study communities are defined by their religious affiliation. Religious identity relates to membership of a group regardless of level of participation. For some, religious identity is a “personal characteristic,” whereas for others it marks “group belonging.”[28] For the former, while their religious identity may be one into which they were born, there is still the possibility of choosing not to continue to practice and/or acquiring a different religious identity. For the latter, especially when religious identity may be a main component of another identity such as ethnic or national, religious identity is interpreted more as an ascribed rather than acquired identity.[29] In relation to migration, religious communities are transnational and have developed networks outside of the territory originally associated with their members. Vertovec argues that religious institutions can assist members in transitioning to a new environment and are influenced by both old and new contexts.[30] 

For the communities studied in this contribution, it is clear that religious identity and the related institutions and associations are crucial to their understandings of belonging. However, this religious identity can be divided into subgroups with implications for the designated “other.” Starting from the largest category, “Christian” members associate themselves with the majority population in European societies through a shared Christian heritage and thus perceive other faith-based groups as the “other.”[31] This is mostly applied to Muslims given that they are the largest faith-based minority in Europe and also constitute the majority in the homelands associated with the case study communities. Members may also consider themselves as part of a Middle Eastern Christian grouping. This approach acknowledges the particularities of the rites, traditions, and cultures of groups originating from the Middle East in contrast to the mainstream Christian churches found in Europe. In Europe, the “Christian” majority is also an “other,” in addition to non-Christian groups. Finally, members clearly connect with their denominational identity. Most communities organize at denominational level in terms of institutions and associations.[32] Thus, other Middle Eastern Christians, despite sharing some characteristics, can also become the “other.” Therefore, it is clear that multiple identities exist even within one identity category. In addition, the majority population is not necessarily likely to be aware of the distinctions and may misrecognize them as belonging to another religious identity, i.e. Muslim.[33]

Regarding ethnic identity, definitional issues reappear. Classical understandings of ethnicity included common ancestry, shared past, and culture, and perceived these as closed boundaries formed due to an identity given at birth.[34] Although there is still disagreement in the literature concerning the extent of which ethnic identity can be perceived as ascribed or acquired, recent research has indicated that boundaries can be fluid, even when considering ethnicity.[35] Migration can increase the salience of ethnic identity due to changing majority-minority relations and potential inequality between groups. Thus, state policies and societal attitudes are crucial in determining relations.

Middle Eastern Christians encompass different ethnicities. For some, such as the Assyrian/Syriac community, there is a close match between religious identity and ethnicity. However, there are debates within this community regarding both the boundary—some include Chaldeans—and the name, e.g. Assyro-Chaldean, Assyrian, etc.[36] For others, such as Copts, Chaldeans, and Maronites, there is contestation regarding the extent to which their religious identity should be constructed as an ethnic one.[37] Additionally, groups such as Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics in the Middle East may relate to Arabs as the majority ethnic identity in the region.[38] 

National identity is sometimes conflated with ethnicity given that, in some contexts, the two become “synonyms for state or nominal citizenship.”[39] For modernists, nationalism is linked to the institutions and bureaucracies of the modern state due to industrial change and capitalism.[40] With its focus on citizenship, some scholars consider this approach as more inclusive and residence-based. In contrast, others highlight ethnicity as a component of nationalism which can be more exclusive given that it contains descent-based belonging.[41] The presence of new arrivals via migration leads to questions relating to national identity and citizenship as explored in the articles by Hunter and McCallum Guiney, and Sparre and Galal in this special issue. Debates on integration have questioned whether national identity is solely about legal citizenship or also includes embracing values and heritage of the receiving country.[42] Furthermore, the loyalty of migrants may be questioned if they are perceived as retaining strong attachment to their country of origin, particularly through dual citizenship.[43] This is accentuated if the two states are seen as adopting different stances on matters such as politics, security, and culture. Thus, a state’s policy towards integration influences not only attitudes towards migrants becoming citizens but also whether migrants perceive that society as receptive to their participation. For migrants, residing in a new country provides the potential to adopt a new national identity, often cemented through citizenship, which may coexist with previous ties or serve as a replacement.

Regarding the case study communities, the majority who emigrate from the region were citizens of a particular country. Their sense of belonging to their country of origin is often mixed.[44] Attachment relates to family, religious, cultural ties, and heritage. Yet, historical and contemporary experiences of hardship, discrimination, and insecurity can lead to alienation especially for those from countries where Christians have been recently targeted by state or nonstate actors, e.g. Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt. As explored in the articles by Hunter and McCallum Guiney, and Sparre and Galal, acquiring citizenship from the state where they now reside has been viewed by many Middle Eastern Christians as not only a logical step but also a means to demonstrate “loyalty” in this new context. By adopting the national identity of their new state, Middle Eastern Christians can become part of a multicultural or pluralistic “us,” with other national identities, including that of their country of origin, becoming the “others.” The extent to which this is recognized by the majority population depends on whether popular understandings of national identity take a civic form and are inclusive to those who may be perceived as linked to other cultures. At the same time, by maintaining ties with the “homeland,” whether institutional through citizenship or emotional through religious, family, and cultural attachment, Middle Eastern Christians can also identify with a particular Middle Eastern state. In a migration context, this process allows them to be part of that state’s expatriate community or diaspora, and thus, the “other” becomes those sharing the national identity of the particular European state. Again, while the scholarship has shown that the depth of attachment to a particular national identity varies across individuals and groups, similar to most migrant communities, multiple facets of national identity exist for Middle Eastern Christians.

From the above discussion, it is apparent that Middle Eastern Christians in Europe navigate numerous identities that are contested within their communities and are subject to recognition and misrecognition from the wider society. The articles in this special issue explore these topics by taking two main approaches to identity. The first approach, adopted by Hunter and McCallum Guiney, and Sparre and Galal, explores Middle Eastern Christians’ interactions in European societies through the lens of citizenship. The authors illustrate that citizenship can be understood as formal recognition of status and equality as well as that the practices of citizenship can either strengthen feelings of belonging to a national society or heighten perceptions of inequality and difference. The desire for recognition and acknowledgement of their place in society proves central to engagement with national government and religious institutions. The second approach, taken by Armbruster and Schmoller, focuses on strategies to develop a sense of communal belonging in the new societies. In particular, the roles of the family and communal institutions are crucial in shaping understandings of multiple identities, a notion of internal unity, and commonalities and differences with the wider society. The heritage of the past, including each individual’s personal or inherited migration story, is important in determining narratives of belonging in the new society.

In order to explore the above issues, each article takes a country case study approach. Hunter and McCallum Guiney explore the theme of citizenship in their article on Middle Eastern Christians of Iraqi and Egyptian heritage residing in the UK. From a starting point that considers Middle Eastern Christians as simultaneous “outsiders” due to their ethnicity or migrant status and “insiders” through a claim of shared history of Christian faith, the authors explore how this claim facilitates the quest for equal citizenship. They first explore the ways in which exclusion in the Middle East reinforces inclusion in the UK, showing that for their respondents the prevalence of the rule of law in the UK was contrasted favorably with experiences in Middle Eastern states due to the importance of equality and tolerance. However, by exploring a “clash of values” regarding the role of religion in the public sphere, the authors show that Middle Eastern Christians’ support for equality and tolerance is not absolute, especially when they perceive societal norms as conflicting with religious teachings. Finally, through the concept of “protective patriotism,” Hunter and McCallum Guiney explain that one method used by Middle Eastern Christians to express their belonging to their new state is to defend societal values which they perceive as being under threat from other groups.  

Armbruster’s contribution analyzes narratives of emigration among Syriac Christians of Turkish background in Vienna, Austria. Expanding on her interest in how migration affects family life and reproduction, the author highlights intergenerational aspects and what she calls “linked biographies.” Thus, through the analysis of the narrative strategies of three men and their sons, she shows how the individuals draw on cultural idioms of Syriac Christian family and masculinity when telling their stories and simultaneously negotiating their moral agency. Whereas the story of migration was in the foreground of the fathers’ narratives, the sons appeared to place their story in continuation of parental ambition about social mobility. Armbruster argues that the analysis of biographical material reveals that migration is a long-term historical process, implemented by participants who are interrelated rather than comprising “migrant generations” as discrete groupings.

Schmoller’s article on the Syriac Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox in Austria moves the analytical focus onto the role of institutions in preserving and reproducing group identity. Schmoller argues that the strong historic role of the Catholic Church in Austria’s political landscape provides the central framework to understanding the successful relationship between the Syriac Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox Churches and both the Catholic Church and the state. The author demonstrates that Catholic networks have played a crucial gatekeeping role in providing access to the case study Christian communities. This has led to a process of institutionalization by the two churches in order to organize diaspora life in religious, societal, and cultural terms. The article provides fresh insights into dynamics of this specific model of church-state relations by concluding that the political agency attributed to church leaders fosters personal leadership, internal affiliations, and divisions within the diaspora communities.

In their article on civic engagement in Denmark, Sparre and Galal explore practices and social relations in Coptic, Assyrian, and Chaldean Christian migrant communities in Denmark. They employ the concept of “domestication” as a lens for understanding the ways in which various forms of civic engagement among the Middle Eastern Christians in Denmark reproduce and contest a Danish model of citizenship—a particular construction of both the national subject and its others.[45] More specifically, they suggest three modalities of civic engagement—serving, committing, and consuming—each produce different manifestations of citizenship, among other things, because they engage with the local, national, and transnational differently. The article argues that one of the reasons why Christians of Middle Eastern origin are not publicly visible as political or activist groups is that they, along with other immigrant groups, are expected to inscribe themselves into the Danish model of citizenship. This means that ethnic and cultural differences are acknowledged but disregarded of their original context and its power relations.

In combination, the articles provide new insight into identity narratives and illuminate how factors like faith, culture, and ethnicity shape experiences of Middle Eastern Christian communities in Europe.


[1] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, Population Facts, December 2017,

[2] “Migratory Routes,” Frontex, accessed September 21, 2020,

[3] See Melani Barlai, Birte Fahnrich, Christina Griessler, and Markus Rhomberg, eds., The Migrant Crisis: European Perspectives and National Discourses (Zurich: Lit Verlag, 2017); Hagen von Hermanni and Robert Neumann, “‘Refugees Welcome?’ The Interplay between Perceived Threats and General Concerns on the Acceptance of Refugees – A Factorial Survey Approach from Germany,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45, no. 3 (2019): 349–74; Christian Czymara and Alexander Schmidt-Catran, “Refugees Unwelcome? Changes in the Public Acceptance of Immigrants and Refugees in Germany in the Course of Europe’s ‘Immigration Crisis,’” European Sociological Review 33, no. 6 (2017): 735–51.

[4] Conrad Hackett, “5 Facts about the Muslim Population in Europe,” Fact Tank (blog), Pew Research Center, November 29, 2017,

[5] See Peter O’Brien, The Muslim Question in Europe: Political Controversies and Public Philosophies (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2016); Marian Burchardt and Ines Michalowski, eds., After Integration: Islam, Conviviality and Contentious Politics in Europe (Wiesbaden: Springer, 2015); Ayhan Kaya, Islam, Migration and Integration: The Age of Securitization (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009).

[6] See Knut Jacobsen and Kristina Myrvold, eds., Sikhs in Europe: Migrations, Identities and Representations (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011); Martin Baumann, “Templeisation: Continuity and Change of Hindu Traditions in Diaspora,” Journal of Religion in Europe 2, no. 2 (2009):149–79; Bidisha Biswas, “Nationalism by Proxy: A Comparison of Social Movements among Diaspora Sikhs and Hindus,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 10, no. 2 (2004): 269–95; Dhooleka Raj, “Who the Hell Do You Think You Are? Promoting Religious Identity among Young Hindus in Britain,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 23, no. 3 (2000): 535–58.

[7] Lise Galal, Alistair Hunter, Fiona McCallum, Sara Sparre, and Marta Wozniak-Bobinska, “Middle Eastern Christian Spaces in Europe: Multi-sited and Super-diverse,” Journal of Religion in Europe 9, no. 1 (2016): 1–25.

[8] For discussion on recent literature, see Laura Robson, “Recent Perspectives on Christianity in the Modern Arab World,” History Compass 9, no. 4 (2011): 312–25; and Fiona McCallum, “Christians in the Middle East: A New Sub-field?,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 42, no. 3 (2010): 486–88.

[9] Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi, eds., The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration (London: The Center for Lebanese Studies, 1992).

[10] Douglas Massey, Joaquin Arango, Graeme Hugo, Ali Kouaouci, Adela Pellegrino, and J. Edward Taylor, “Theories of International Migration: A Review and Appraisal,” Population and Development Review 19, no. 3 (1993): 431–66.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Andreas Schmoller, “Middle Eastern Minorities in Diaspora,” in Routledge Handbook of Minorities in the Middle East, ed. Paul S. Rowe (London: Routledge, 2018), 354.

[13] See Yasmeen Hanoosh, “The Chaldean Church between Iraq and America: A Transnational Social Field Perspective,” in Minorities and the Modern Arab World: New Perspectives, ed. Laura Robson (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2016), 191–211; Hadeel Fawadleh, “The Migration Experiences of Palestinian Christians to the US: From a Socio-geographical Perspective,” in Palestinian Christians: Emigration, Displacement and Diaspora, ed. Mitri Raheb (Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace, 2017), 45–60; Jennifer Brinkerhoff, “Diaspora Policy in Weakly Governed Arenas and the Benefits of Multipolar Engagement: Lessons from the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45, no. 4 (2019): 561–76; Nadia Marzouki, “The US Coptic Diaspora and the Limit of Polarization,” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies 14, no. 3 (2016): 261–76; Yvonne Haddad and Joshua Donovan, “Good Copt, Bad Copt: Competing Narratives on Coptic Identity in Egypt and the United States,” Studies in World Christianity 19, no. 3 (2013): 208–32; Carolyn Ramzy, “Singing Strategic Multiculturalism: The Discursive Politics of Song in Coptic-Canadian Protests,” in Copts in Context: Negotiating Identity, Tradition and Modernity, ed. Pieternella van Doorn-Harder (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2017), 93–106;  Nelia Hyndman-Rizik, “‘Shrinking Worlds’: Cronulla, Anti-Lebanese Racism and Return Visits in the Sydney Hadchiti Lebanese Community,” Anthropological Forum 18, no. 1 (2008): 37–55; Youssef Taouk, Margaret Ghosn, Anthony Steel, and Jude Butcher, “Maronite Church and Youth Identity in Australia,” The Australasian Catholic Record 89, no. 3 (2012): 299–310.

[14] Jennifer Mack, The Construction of Equality: Syriac Immigration and the Swedish City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017); Aryo Makko, “In Search of a New Home: The Assyrian Diaspora in Sweden,” in Migration from Turkey to Sweden: Integration, Belonging and Transnational Community, ed. Bahar Başer and Paul T. Levin (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017); Soner Onder Barthoma, “The Transformation of Social Capital among Assyrians in the Migration Context,” in Orthodox Identities in Western Europe: Migration, Settlement and Innovation, ed. Maria Hämmerli and Jean-François Mayer (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 67–88; Önver Cetrez, “The Next Generation Assyrians in Sweden: Religiosity as a Functioning System of Meaning within the Process of Acculturation,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 14, no. 5 (2011): 473–87; Naures Atto, Hostages in the Homeland, Orphans in the Diaspora: Identity Discourses among the Assyrian/Syriac Elites in the European Diaspora (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2011).

[15] See Andreas Schmoller, “Of Safe Havens and Sinking Ships: The Church in Oral Histories of Middle Eastern Christians in Austria,” in Middle Eastern Christians and Europe: Historical Legacies and Present Challenges, ed. Andreas Schmoller (Vienna: LIT Verlag, 2018), 147–98; Andreas Schmoller, “Now My Life in Syria is Finished: Case Studies on Religious Identity and Sectarianism in Narratives of Syrian Christian Refugees in Austria,” Islam and Christian Muslim Relations 27, no. 4 (2016): 419–37; Sarah Bakker Kellogg, “Ritual Sounds, Political Echoes: Vocal Agency and the Sensory Cultures of Secularism in the Dutch Syriac Diaspora,” American Ethnologist 42, no. 3 (2015): 431–45; Atto, Hostages in the Homeland; Heidi Armbruster, Keeping the Faith: Syriac Christian Diasporas (Canon Pyon: Sean Kingston, 2013); Hervé Vieillard-Baron, “Les chrétiens assyro-chaldéens à Sarcelles: de l’invisibilité à l’affichage Communautaire,” in Dieu change en ville: religion, espace, immigration, ed. Lucine Endelstein, Sébastien Fath, and Séverine Mathieu (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010), 93–112.

[16] Suha Shakkour, “Learning to be British: The Significance of Education for Christian Palestinians in London,” in Middle Eastern Christians and Europe: Historical Legacies and Present Challenges, ed. Andreas Schmoller (Vienna: LIT Verlag, 2018), 105–24; Nora Stene, “Belonging to the Church Community: From Childhood Years Onwards,” in Copts in Context: Negotiating Identity, Tradition and Modernity, ed. Pieternella van Doorn-Harder (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2017), 134–48; Nora Stene Preston, “Multiple Choice? Languageusage and the Transmission of Religious Tradition in the Coptic Orthodox Community in London,” British Journal of Religious Education 20, no. 2 (2006): 90–101.

[17] For more information, see

[18] Publications arising from the project include: Galal et al., “Middle Eastern Christian Spaces”; Alistair Hunter, “Staking a Claim to Land, Faith and Family: Burial Location Preferences of Middle Eastern Christian Migrants,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 37, no. 2 (2016): 179–94; Fiona McCallum, “Shared Religion but Still a Marginalized Other: Middle Eastern Christians Encounters with Political Secularism in the UK,” Journal of Church and State 61, no. 2 (2019): 242–61; Sara Lei Sparre, “(In)visibility and the Muslim Other: Narratives of Flight and Religious Identity among Iraqi Christians in Denmark,” Ethnicities (August 2020),; Sara Lei Sparre and Lise Paulsen Galal, “Incense and Holy Bread: The Sense of Belonging through Ritual among Middle Eastern Christians in Denmark,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44, no. 16 (2017): 2649–66; Marta Wozniak-Bobinska, “Big Fat Assyrian/Syriac Weddings: Rituals and Marriage Traditions among Middle Eastern Christians in Sweden,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44, no. 16 (2017): 2684–2700.

[19] See Rawi Abdelal, Yoshiko Herrera, Alastair Johnston, and Rose McDermott, “Identity as a Variable,” Perspectives in Politics 4, no. 4 (2006): 695–711; Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “Beyond ‘Identity,’” Theory and Society 29 (2000): 1–47; Sheldon Stryker and Peter Burke, “The Past, Present, and Future of an Identity Theory,” Social Psychology Quarterly 63, no. 4 (2000): 284–97; Stuart Hall, “Who Needs ‘Identity’?” in Questions of Cultural Identity, ed. Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay (London: Sage, 1996), 1–17.

[20] Abdelal et al., “Identity as a Variable,” 698.

[21] Richard Jenkins, Social Identity (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), 42.

[22] Sparre, “(In)visibility and the Muslim Other”; Andreas Schmoller, “Anti-Islamic Narratives of Middle Eastern Diaspora Christians: An Interdisciplinary Analytical Framework,” in Eastern and Oriental Christianity in the Diaspora, ed. Herman Teule and Jos Verheyden (Leuven: Peeters, 2020), 189–211.

[23] Abdelal et al., “Identity as a Variable,” 700.

[24] Richard Crisp and Miles Hewstone, “Multiple Categorization and Social Identity,” in Social Identity Processes: Trends in Theory and Research, ed. Dora Capozza and Rupert Brown (London: SAGE, 2000), 149.

[25] Kay Deaux, “Models, Meanings and Motivations,” in Social Identity Processes: Trends in Theory and Research, ed. Dora Capozza and Rupert Brown (London: SAGE, 2000), 9.

[26] Bernd Simon and Bert Klandermans, “Politicized Collective Identity: A Social Psychological Analysis,” American Psychologist 56, no. 4 (2001): 319–31.

[27] Peggy Levitt and Nina Glick Schiller, “Transnational Perspectives on Migration: Conceptualizing Simultaneity,” International Migration Review 38, no. 145 (2004): 595–629. See also Nina Glick Schmiller and Thomas Faist, eds., Migration, Development and Transnationalization: A Critical Stance (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010); Steven Vertovec, Transnationalism (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009).

[28] Maria Brambilla, Claudia Manzi, Camillo Regalia, Maja Becker, and Vivian Vignoles, “Is Religious Identity a Social Identity? Self-categorization of Religious Self in Six Countries,” Psicologia sociale 2 (2016): 189–98.

[29] Eoin O’Malley and Dawn Walsh, “Religion and Democratization in Northern Ireland: Is Religion actually Ethnicity in Disguise?,” Democratization 20, no. 5 (2013): 939–58.

[30] Vertovec, Transnationalism, 141.

[31] See McCallum, “Shared Religion”; Sparre, “(In)visibility and the Muslim Other.”

[32] Galal et al., “Middle Eastern Christian Spaces.”

[33] See McCallum, “Shared Religion”; Sparre, “(In)visibility and the Muslim Other”; Schmoller, “Anti-Islamic Narratives.”

[34] Kanchan Chandra, “What is Ethnic Identity and Does It Matter?,” Annual Review of Political Science 9 (2006): 397–425.

[35] See Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity without Groups (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004); Craig Calhoun, “The Variability of Belonging: A Reply to Rogers Brubaker,” Ethnicities 3, no. 4 (2003): 558–66; Chandra, “What is Ethnic Identity.”

[36] Galal et al., “Middle Eastern Christian Spaces”; Atto, Hostages in the Homeland.

[37] Fiona McCallum, Christian Religious Leadership in the Middle East: The Political Role of the Patriarch (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010).

[38] Samir Khalil Samir, “The Christian Communities, Active Members of Arab Society throughout History,” in Christian Communities in the Arab Middle East, ed. Andrea Pacini (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 67–91.

[39] Sinisa Malesevic, Identity as Ideology: Understanding Ethnicity and Nationalism (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006).

[40] Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1983).

[41] Anthony Smith, “Interpretations of National Identity,” in Modern Roots: Studies of National Identities, ed. Alain Dieckhoff and Natividad Gutiérrez (Hampshire: Ashgate, 2001).

[42] Tariq Modood, Post-Immigration ‘Difference’ and Integration: The Case of Muslims in Western Europe (London: British Academy, 2012); Pontus Odmalm, Migration Policies and Political Participation: Inclusion or Intrusion in Western Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005).

[43] Vertovec, Transnationalism, 90–93.

[44] Atto, Hostages in the Homeland; McCallum, Christian Religious Leadership.

[45] Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic (London: Routledge, 2001); Ghassan Hage, “The Spatial Imaginary of National Practices: Dwelling – Domesticating/Being – Exterminating,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14, no. 4 (1996): 463–85.

Dr. Fiona McCallum Guiney is Senior Lecturer in the School of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She is Director of the Institute for Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus Studies. Email: