Syriac Symposium

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Date(s) - September 5, 2024 - September 8, 2024
9:00 am - 9:00 pm

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The First Athra Syriac Symposium


“Syriac as a Living Culture, despite Challenges to its Survival”


3-day conference
5-8 September 2024
Ankawa, Erbil (Iraq)

Held for the first time, the Athra Syriac Symposium will bring together scholars and students for exchange and discussion on a wide variety of topics related to the language, literature, and cultural history of the Syriac people, extending chronologically from the pre-Christian era to the present day and geographically from Syriac Christianity’s homeland in the Middle East to the worldwide diaspora.

In 2024, the First Athra Syriac Symposium will be held in person at the Monastery of the Martyr Abbot Gabriel Danbo, in Ankawa, Erbil, 5 to 8 September. Most of the event will be hosted at the Patriarch Mar Joseph VI Audo Conference Hall, with the opportunity to visit the exhibit at the Cultural Centre for the Preservation of Syriac Manuscripts ‘Scriptorium Syriacum,’ as well as the Syriac Heritage Museum and Oriental Manuscripts Digital Documentation Centre (CNMO).

The theme of this Symposium is “Syriac as a Living Culture, despite Challenges to its survival.” Syriac has often been treated as an extinct liturgical language and Early Christian religious tradition, disregarding its contemporary and living cultural context. As such, it has largely been considered as an auxiliary tool for theologians and historians of the Late Antique and Medieval periods. This conference welcomes papers on topics that treat Syriac as a living, dynamic and vibrant culture both religious and secular, not limited to scholarly investigation of the past. How, and in what form, have the Syriac language and culture managed to survive despite the many challenges to their continued existence?

Far from solely being the liturgical language of a Middle Eastern religious minority, Syriac is rather the vernacular culture of a modern-day indigenous people with hopes and dreams for a future in their athra (homeland). We therefore encourage papers on this theme that rise above the limitation of Syriac to the realm of yesterday’s religious traditions, but go further, demonstrating how Syriac is relevant to today’s cultural reality, as well as strategies for its resilience and future survival on its native lands.

We particularly welcome papers addressing:
• Syriac folklore, customs and traditions
• Syriac visual arts and crafts
• Syriac music and song
• Syriac theatre, dramatic arts and film
• Syriac architecture and material culture
• Syriac village life
• Syriac schools and educational programs
• Syriac journalism, press and media
• Syriac and Neo-Aramaic literature and translation activity
• Syriac manuscripts, documents, and epigraphy
• Syriac heritage preservation
• Syriac and modern technological advances
• Syriac social and economic history
• Syriac geography
• Biographies and contributions of Syriac scholars and intellectuals
• Religious and cultural practices
• Coexistence with neighbouring religions and cultures

Any investigation into the Syriac traditions has the potential to contribute to the main theme. Syriac studies now comprise a large field. We therefore also welcome proposals from doctoral students, early and mid-career researchers, and established academics for papers on current projects that do not directly address the theme that we have set. There will be abundant opportunities for discussion in a supportive environment, and we hope that this will be a useful venue for dialogue and exchange.

Date and Schedule:
Wednesday, September 4:      Arrival
Thursday, September 5:        Conference (full day)
Evening: Welcome Reception
Friday, September 6:            Conference (full day)
Saturday, September 7:        Conference (full day)
Sunday, September 8:          One-day trip to Rabban Hormizd Monastery at Alqosh and Erbil city tour
Monday, September 9:          Departure

The conference will be held in English, Syriac and Arabic, with simultaneous translation provided.

Abstract Submission Deadline is 15 June 2024. Please submit a title and abstract of proposed original contribution (max. 300 words) for a 20-minute presentation in one of the three conference languages, along with a short biography including name and current affiliation (max. 150 words), under the subject heading “Athra Syriac Symposium” to: Word and Pdf files are accepted.

The organisers will review submissions and notify applicants of decisions by mid-July 2024. Accepted speakers will be provided with further information on registration and accommodation. After the symposium, speakers will be invited to contribute their papers to a collected volume of the conference proceedings.

Accommodation in Ankawa will be provided by the symposium organisers.

Visa: Please ensure that you have the right travel documents for entering Iraqi Kurdistan. Further information about visa application will be sent out to conference participants when needed.

The conference is made possible thanks to the generous support of the General Directorate for Syriac Culture and Arts in cooperation with the Yonan Hozaya Centre for Research and Future Studies, and will be hosted by the General Congregation of the Chaldean Antonian Order of St. Hormizd.

Organising Committee: Peter Nabati (General Directorate for Syriac Culture and Arts); Dr. Nicholas Al-Jeloo (Independent); Van Gliana (Yonan Hozaya Centre for Research and Future Studies)

Scientific Committee: Prof. Amir Harrak | University of Toronto | Abbot Dr. Samer Yohanna Sorisho | General Congregation of the Chaldean Antonian Order of St. Hormizd and Salahaddin University, Erbil; Prof. Michael Abdalla | Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan; Dr. Alda Benjamen | University of Dayton, Ohio; Dr. Samir Sabri Khourani | Salahaddin University, Erbil; Dr. Eve Georges Sada | Centre for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University.

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