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Tsacoyianis biographical page


Beverly A. Tsacoyianis

Assistant Professor


Beverly Tsacoyianis

Office: 119 Mitchell
Telephone: 901.678.2520
Fax: 901.678.2720

Education: Ph.D., History, Washington University in St. Louis, 2014


Fields of interest

Modern Middle East; Islamic History; 20th-century global and comparative history; history of science and medicine

In April 2014, I completed my dissertation at Washington University in St. Louis, “Making Healthy Minds and Bodies in Syria and Lebanon, 1899-1961,” under the supervision of Prof. Nancy Reynolds, Prof. Tim Parsons, Prof. Ahmet Karamustafa, Prof. Hillel Kieval, and Prof. Nancy Berg. I am now working on turning the dissertation into a book-length monograph. My research explores social experiences of health and illness, particularly in psychiatric and vernacular modes of healing in Syria during the twentieth century. I analyze records from a privately funded Protestant missionary-run hospital in Beirut and a secular government-funded hospital near Damascus as well as historical fiction and related sources that span the end of the Ottoman Empire, the French Mandate period, and early post-colonial period, including the brief union of Egypt and Syria as the United Arab Republic. I argue that psychiatrists in Syria presented mental health treatment to Syrians as more than just a way to control or cure mental illness, but as a modernizing worldview to combat popular ideas about the origins of mental illness and to encourage acceptance of psychiatry. Hospital staff in Syria were so careful to present a purely psychiatric framework for illness that they distanced themselves almost completely from vernacular healing. This decision hastened a vernacular-psychiatric division in the medical landscape where healing systems in other parts of the Middle East had begun to integrate local customs. Treatment devoid of spiritual therapies ultimately delegitimized psychiatry among lower classes. The mental health landscape for Syrians in the early and mid-twentieth century remained open to non-psychiatric alternatives. The legitimacy of treatment, the professionalization of healers, and the authority of cultural worldviews are central issues to the study of health care provision in Syria, but they reflect overarching themes in, and invite comparison to, numerous communities where alternative healing systems continue to draw support in the face of increasingly globalized biomedical practices.

Courses taught or assistant taught

Modern Middle East; Intro to Islamic Civilization; Intro to Western Civilization since 1500; The Politics of Health in the Modern Middle East; Understanding the Arab Spring and Uprisings in the Middle East; Palestine, Zionism, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict; and World Since 1945.

Recent conference presentations

“Mental Illness and the Plural Medical Marketplace in Syria, 1922-1956,” “Public Health, Wellness, and the Emerging Nation-State” Panel, Middle East Studies Association (MESA) 45th annual meeting, Washington D.C., December 1-4, 2011

“Fruits of the Arab Spring: Understanding Leadership and Society in the Middle East and North Africa,” Invited speaker, keynote address in panel, Blackburn College, Carlinville, IL, April 21, 2011

“Disability and Difference in Syria Under the French Mandate,” “Transatlantic Perspectives on the History of Disability” Panel, American Historical Association (AHA) 124th annual meeting, San Diego, January 7-10, 2010, sponsored by the AHA Professional Division and the AHA Task Force on Disability

“Religion and Ethnicity in the Late Ottoman Period: A Case Study of Maronites Under Vatican and Parisian-Influenced Leadership,” Pluralism, Politics, and Religion Initiative, 2nd joint Graduate Student Conference, hosted by Sciences Politiques – Paris, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes GRSL = Sorbonne and Washington University in St. Louis, Paris, France, June 6, 2007

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