Emily Fox

Social Reproduction in Education: The School of Nisibis and Christian Identity in Late Ancient Mesopotamia

This paper focuses on the role played by East Syrian Christian schools, most notably the School of Nisibis, in the creation and perpetuation of a distinct East Syrian identity. Using Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron's theory of social reproduction as laid out in their work, Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture, as a lens through which to see the School of Nisibis and a tool by which to create a coherent framework for understanding the sources it left behind, this paper argues that the sixth- and early seventh-century East Syrian schools functioned primarily as institutions of inculcation that served as a tool for the reproduction of a distinct East Syrian identity. This, I argue, is done in three ways: first, ideologically - through the use of teaching tools that work to enforce borders around theologically orthodox beliefs; second, bureaucratically - through legitimizing power relations of pedagogy; and third, literarily - through the literary tradition developed at the school, in which former students of the school become a part of the larger literary world that shapes East Syrian identity. Ultimately, this paper is an attempt to understand the role and functions of educational institutions within late ancient Mesopotamia.