Berit Synnøve Thorbjørnsrud
The Unknown Story: Christians in The Arabian Peninsula
«There are two stories of Middle Eastern Christianity”, according to Anglican bishop Michael Lewis, but “one of them is barely known” (2016). While it is generally well known that Christianity risks becoming “a rarity, a memory, or a theme-park tourist attraction” in countries like Iraq, Syria, Israel/Palestine, few, apart from those directly involved, seem aware of the development in the Arabian Peninsula, where the numbers of worshippers are “astonishing”.
This project is about this other, largely unknown, story about Christians in the Arabian Peninsula. While most recent studies are about Christians migrating from the Middle East and the reasons why, this is a study on Christians migrating to the Middle East and how they are working to reestablish Christianity as a living faith on what has been considered uniquely Islamic territory for more than a thousand years.
I have a multidisciplinary background with specialization in social anthropology, history of religion and Egyptology. My research has mainly focused on Christian minority groups in the Middle East and in Norway. Presently I’m doing a study on the re-establishment of Christianity in the Arabian Peninsula. Previously I have done studies on the revival in the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt; Coptic gender roles; Coptic concepts of the body and their use of body changing techniques. In Norway I have done studies on the Eastern Orthodox Church: nationalism and universalism in the diaspora; religious leaders and power; religion and material culture, etc. Among other things I have also worked on the construction of Muslim women in Norwegian/Western popular literature.
Teaching and Tutoring
- AAS4900 Internasjonalt prosjektsemester
- MES 4000 Fieldwork
- Skriveseminar for masterstudenter
- Bachelor essay in Middle Eastern Studies
- Exfac – Introductory course for Middle Eastern and south Asian Studies
Where Christianity flourishes? The ’new Christians’ in the Arabian Peninsula
Higher Education and Employment History
I joined the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages as an Associate Professor in 2002. From 2000-2002, I worked as an Associate professor at Development studies, Oslo University College. From 1992-99, I was a fellow at Middle East Studies.
My mag.art. degree is in social anthropology (1989), with the dissertation: Girls of Messiah: Revival in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and my Dr.art. is in history of religion (1989) with the dissertation Controlling the Body to Liberate the Soul: towards an Analysis of the Coptic Orthodox Concept of the Body (University of Oslo).
I have been responsible for training students for the labor market, and I have designed, taught and evaluated courses for public servants in cross cultural communications.