Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards

Christian Casey Sahner

Princeton University

2015 Co-winner (Humanities)

Christian Casey Sahner

Christian Casey Sahner

Christian Martyrs and the Making of an Islamic Society in the Post-Conquest Period
Princeton University, History
Supervised by Peter Brown and Michael Cook

The Humanities Committee (Chair James Grehan, Portland State University; Moneera Al-Ghadeer, Harvard University; Eric J. Hanne, Florida Atlantic University; Faegheh Shirazi, University of Texas at Austin) selected two winners for this year’s Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in the Humanities. The first is We’re Not in Kufa Anymore:  the Construction of Late Hanafism in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire, 16th-19th Centuries by Samy Ayoub who obtained his degree from University of Arizona, School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies, under the direction of Scott Lucas.  The second, Christian Martyrs and the Making of an Islamic Society in the Post-Conquest Period, was written by Christian Casey Sahner of Princeton University’s History Department, under the direction of Peter Brown and Michael Cook.

Dr. Sahner has produced a versatile study that nimbly moves across late antique and early Islamic history.  As broad as the chronological sweep is the dissertation’s impressive geographical range, which encompasses Spain, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Caucasus.  The dissertation skillfully explores multiple historical genres and textual traditions from both Muslim and Christian perspectives. 

At the heart of its argument are accounts of Christian martyrs composed during the first three centuries of the Islamic era.  Sahner considers the various social and political contexts behind reports about apostasy by Muslim converts, conversion to Christianity by Muslims, and blasphemy against Islam by Christians.  His close reading of the sources reveals Christian communities which were deeply divided about the terms on which they should accommodate Muslim rule.  Written in an engaging and accessible fashion, this study sheds new light on questions of tolerance, persecution, and Islamization in the early medieval Mediterranean and Middle East. 

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