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Aramean (Suryoyo) Identity







With kind regards,

Marta Wozniak

 The idea of designing the survey entitled “Aramean (Suryoyo) Identity” was born during The X Symposium Syriacum and the VIII Arab Christian Conference in Granada, September 2008. I presented there the results of my previous survey – “assyrian Identity”, which was filled up by almost 400 people. The comments, which I received after my presentation from Aramean/Syriac prominent intellectuals and Western scholars in this field, showed me that further and deeper research in the complex question of identity of people who call themselves Arameans/assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs (Suryoye) is needed.  As I listened to assyrian/Chaldean voice, I want to listen to Aramean/Syriac voice as well, to have broader perspective for my PhD dissertation, which I am presently preparing at the University of Lodz, Poland.

I became interested in the history and the present life of Aramaic-speaking people seven years ago, when in Sweden I was received by the followers of Syriac Orthodox Church, who were very kind to me. Then in Syria (where I was studying Arabic for one year), in Turkey, in Germany and in Brazil I met other adherents of this church, but also of Syriac Catholic Church, Maronite Church, Chaldean Church, assyrian Church of the East, and Protestant Churches. Besides, I spoke to people who did not identify themselves with any of the above-mentioned churches, but were involved in work for their community. Thus, I realized that it is a true mosaic – the people calling themselves several names and speaking a few dialects of Aramaic and/or other languages, belonging to several churches, but sharing the common history (especially painful memory of Seyfo) and concern for the present situation in the homeland, in addition to anxiety about the future of their identity in diaspora.

For a few years I have been teaching and publishing in Poland on the non-Muslim minorities of the Middle East, mostly on the Aramaic-speaking ones. Two years ago I started collecting data for the doctoral thesis. With the results from the “Aramean (Suryoyo) Survey” I hope to write the dissertation: “Modern Arameans and assyrians: in search for national identity”, which will consist of few parts – theoretical framework, historical background and sociological part. In the theoretical framework I would like to present the different approaches towards the identity. The historical background will focus on the last century, especially on the tragedy of Seyfo and the emigration from the homeland. The third, sociological part will hopefully be the one to bring something new by presenting the personal, though anonymous, opinions of the Arameans compared to views of the Assyrians and Chaldeans.

First and foremost, I am interested in the ways, in which the Arameans/Syriacs perceive themselves, secondly, in issues such as the knowledge of languages (Classical Syriac/Edessan Aramaic and dialects of Aramaic in particular), the contact with Aramaic (Suryoyo) culture (magazines, television, radio, internet, etc.), the attitude towards tradition, the importance of the feasts, the religious background and practice, finally, the threats to the Aramean (Suryoyo) identity and the methods of protecting it.

I wish that the material gathered thanks to this survey will serve not only me and all the scholars interested in the matter, but principally the Arameans/Syriacs themselves.

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