Mr. Sahner will provide a macro-level talk on the reordering of the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the present, with special emphasis on the great powers, ethnic and religious minorities, and the Arab Spring.
Christian studies the Middle East, in particular, the transition from late antiquity to the early Islamic period, relations between Muslims and Christians, and the history of Syria.
He received his AB summa cum laude in Art and Archaeology from Princeton in 2007. He then studied as a Rhodes Scholar at St John’s College, Oxford, where he earned his M.Phil with distinction in Arabic and Byzantine Studies in 2009. After, he returned to Princeton, earning an MA in History with distinction in 2011. In 2012, he completed advanced Arabic language study at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Beirut.
His dissertation, which he expects to submit in the spring of 2015, is entitled "Christian Martyrdom in the Early Islamic Period." It aims to fill a major lacuna by providing the first scholarly account of violence against Christians in the early medieval Middle East. The dissertation centers around a collection of largely unstudied Christian hagiographical texts in Arabic, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Georgian, and Armenian. He pairs these with Muslim legal and historical sources in the hopes of giving a robust and balanced picture of conversion, apostasy, and blasphemy in the early years after the Arab conquest.
Christian is the author of Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (Oxford University Press/ C. Hurst & Co.), an introduction to the war-torn country that blends elements of history, reportage, and memoir from my time in the Levant. His essays on the culture and history of the Middle East have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications.
His research has been supported by fellowships from the H.F. Guggenheim Foundation; the American Center for Oriental Research, Amman; the Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton; and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, Princeton. He has co-organized a number of scholarly conferences and colloquia, including on the destruction of Syria's cultural heritage (Princeton, December 2013), religiously mixed families in the medieval Middle East (MESA Annual Meeting, November 2014), and late antique hagiography (Princeton, December 2014).
With Prof. Bernard Haykel, Christian co-taught the course "The Politics of Modern Islam," and with Prof. Jack Tannous, "The World of Late Antiquity." He served as the co-convener of the Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium, and he volunteer with Office of International Programs to help seniors applying for post-graduate fellowships in the United Kingdom.