Modern Chaldeans are an Aramaic speaking Catholic Syriac community from northern Iraq, not to be confused with the ancient Mesopotamian civilization of the same name. First identified as 'Chaldean' by the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, this misnomer persisted, developing into a distinctive and unique identity. In modern times, the demands of assimilation in the US, together with increased hostility and sectarian violence in Iraq, gave rise to a complex and transnational identity. Faced with Islamophobia in the US, Chaldeans were at pains to emphasize a Christian identity, and appropriated the ancient, pre-Islamic history of their namesake as a means of distinction between them and other immigrants from Arab lands. In this, the first ethnographic history of the modern Chaldeans, Yasmeen Hanoosh explores these ancient-modern inflections in contemporary Chaldean identity discourses, the use of history as a collective commodity for developing and sustaining a positive community image in the present, and the use of language revival and monumental symbolism to reclaim association with Christian and pre-Christian traditions.
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Yasmeen Hanoosh is associate professor of Arabic Studies at Portland State University, USA. She received her PhD. in Arabic Language and Literature from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2008). She has contributed chapters to several peer-reviewed edited collections and her research on Iraqi literature and Arabic literary translation has been published in Arab Studies Journal and the Journal of Arabic Literature.
1. On the Politics of Appellation: The Making of the Modern Chaldeans 27
2. Archaeology, Philology and Mission: The Modern History of Ancient Chaldean History
3. Arab/Chaldean/Assyrian Distinctions: Political Survival in the New Nation State of Iraq
4. From Religious to Ethnic Minority: Between Iraq and America in the Twentieth Century
5. Family, Marriage and Ethnic Economy: A Transnational Social Field Perspective
6. The Modern Chaldean Church: Global Circuits of Ecclesial Power
7. A Safe Haven Dream: Home between Detroit and the Nineveh Plain
8. Chaldeanness: The Official Narrative and its Changing Displays
Epilogue: Centre and Peripheries of Chaldeanness in the Twilight of the Nation State
Appendix: Appellations and Languages
The Chaldeans offers a superbly textured account of the shifting interplay of religious, racial, national, and ethnic designations and self-designations of community identity, moving compellingly from the late Ottoman era to the present. Addressing the modern revival of ancient Mesopotamian civilization, Hanoosh develops a densely complex narrative of the fraught ideological politics swirling around "Iraq's Christians," especially as articulated vis-a-vis Arabness and Islam. In this astute analysis of the efforts to stabilize definitions of belonging, the book insightfully captures the tensions and paradoxes embedded not simply in regional but rather in transnational processes of minoritization. * Ella Shohat, Author of Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices * The Chaldeans is the first study that successfully frames the community in a social fields perspective and retains an analytic lucidity that makes the work beautifully clear for scholarly and classroom audiences alike. Hanoosh demonstrates an unmatched ability to weave together competing perspectives in a way that compassionately represents them without condescension or side-taking. The book's findings are impressive on their own, but I was doubly struck by her modeling of empathetic scholarship for the many communities she writes about. * Stacy Fahrenthold, author of Between the Ottomans and the Entente: the First World War in the Syrian and Lebanese Diaspora, 1908- 1925 * Hanoosh has written one of the most provocative 'identity' studies to date, compelling us to rethink key notion of relationality, citizenship, and displacement. The Chaldeans is a timely and sobering book precisely because it demonstrates that we come late in understanding the discursive politics that form our identities. Focusing on the complex historiography of Chaldean identities, it powerfully reveals how questions of ideology, history and geography set certain demands upon identity that can both be unsettling and revealing. This is a new classic that will forcefully redefine notions of minority, religion, ethnicity, and sectarianism in Iraq. * Mohammad Salama, author of Islam, Orientalism and Intellectual History: Modernity and the Politics of Exclusion since Ibn Khaldun * This is a vital book and essential reading for anyone who cares about the Christian minorities now living in a region beset by sectarian violence and colonial ambitions that map religious identities onto the landscape while also trying to erase them. The Chaldeans is brave, interesting, and well researched. It completely eviscerates the existing literature on the subject, which traps Chaldeans in their stores and churches and deprives them of political and cultural agency. Hanoosh's exploration of these themes is personal and sharply critical. She nonetheless holds open the possibility of defining self and community in alternative ways that defy and transgress institutional and national framings. * Sally Howell, author of Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past *
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