Christian Casey Sahner

Research Fellowship, St John's College, Cambridge

I study 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.

I received my A.B. summa cum laude in Art and Archaeology from Princeton in 2007. I then studied as a Rhodes Scholar at St John’s College, Oxford, where I earned my M.Phil. with distinction in Arabic and Byzantine Studies in 2009. After, I returned to Princeton, earning an M.A. in History with distinction in 2011. In 2012, I completed advanced Arabic language study at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Beirut.

My dissertation, which I expect 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. I pair 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.

I am 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. My essays on the culture and history of the Middle East have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications.

My 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. I have 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, I co-taught the course "The Politics of Modern Islam," and with Prof. Jack Tannous, "The World of Late Antiquity." I served as the co-convener of the Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium, and I volunteer with Office of International Programs to help seniors applying for post-graduate fellowships in the United Kingdom.


Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (Oxford University Press/ C. Hurst & Co., September 2014)

“Old Martyrs, New Martyrs, and the Coming of Islam: Writing Hagiography after the Conquests,” in: Cultures in Motion: Studies in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, eds. Adam Izdebski & Damian Jasiński, Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press, 2014, pp. 89-112.

“From Augustine to Islam: Translation and History in the Arabic Orosius,” Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 88, 4 (2013), pp. 901-935.

Review article: “Ecumenical Islam,” (review of Fred Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam) The Times Literary Supplement, 1 July 2011.

“Hierusalem in Laterano: The Creation of Sacred Space in Fifth Century Rome,” in: New Jerusalems: Hierotopy and Iconography of Sacred Spaces, ed. Alexei Lidov, Moscow: Indrik, 2009, pp. 103-130.

Publications (forthcoming)

“Islamic Legends about the Birth of Monasticism: A Case Study in the Late Antique Milieu of the Qur'an and Tafsir,” in: Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Early Medieval Mediterranean World, ed. Robert Hoyland, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam, Princeton, NJ: The Darwin Press (forthcoming, 2014)

"Swimming Against the Current: Muslim Conversion to Christianity in the Early Islamic Period," Journal of the American Oriental Society (forthcoming, 2016)

Dissertation Title:

"Christian Martyrs and the Making of an Islamic Society in the Post-Conquest Period"

Degree Year
Year of Study
Home Department & Other Affiliations