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Religious Studies (Scripps), Scripps College

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In 2009, Michael Penn published a transcription and English translation of two Syriac texts, To the Rulers of the World (ܠܘܬ ܪ''ܝܫܢܐ ܕܥܠܡܐ) and Concerning the Entrance before a New Emir (ܕܡܥܠܬܐ ܨܝܕ ܐܡܝܪܐ ܚܕܬܐ). This essay proposes a new historiographical approach to these texts based on the concepts and theoretical apparatus of systems intelligence theory and affect theory. I show how these texts use key Islamic theological and cultural ideas that would affectively resonate with the Muslim authorities while remaining non-objectionable to the orthodoxy of the Assyrian Church of the East. Specifically, I argue that Christians sometimes sought to curry favor with Islamic authorities not so much through logical persuasion, but by creating a sense of affective coherence through attunement to the discursive and theological systems of Islam. Through this strategy, Christians perhaps hoped to gain some small measure of political and religious advantage, especially over and against other Christian jurisdictions, such as the Syrian Orthodox Church. I conclude by discussing what methodological prospects these approaches can offer to the subfield, particularly if combined with other theories that similarly remain underused.


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© 2023 Luis J Salés

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