Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2020

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Kristin Gee Hickman

Second Advisor

Charles Joukhadar

Third Advisor

Vivian Ibrahim

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

For Americans of Arab descent, identity can present a number of difficulties to define within the existing ethnic and racial categories of the United States. While several scholars have looked at the ways that Muslims American of Arab descent navigate these categories, less attention has been paid to the complex self-identification Christian Arab Americans, many of whom come from Lebanese and Syrian backgrounds. It is the objective of this thesis to explore how Americans of Syrian and Lebanese descent understand their ethnic, racial, cultural, and national identities as well as how these identities both inform and are informed by religion. In this vein, this project analyzes fifty-eight video recorded oral histories from the Arab American National Museum, located in Houston, Texas. I argue that for Americans of Syrian and Lebanese descent who have been in the southern United States for several generations, expressions of their ethnic identity (e.g. Lebanese, Syrian, Arab) are inextricably entangled with expressions of their religious identity as Christian. Therefore, in contrast to previous research which shows trends among Muslims Arab Americans to increasingly identify as “Muslim Americans” (Naber 2012), my research suggests that Christian Arab Americans in the south prioritize their Lebanese, Syrian, and Arab identities – but in a way that covertly smuggles in their faith.

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