In this episode, Joseph Youssef (PhD candidate in Anthropology, University of Toronto) kindly shares his history and his experiences with us, as an Egyptian immigrant to Toronto and an anthropologist of Coptic monasticism in Egypt and its diasporas. His fascinating research sheds light on the pitfalls of mythologizing and romanticizing monks. Rather, as he argues, we must understand their humanity and appreciate how modernization continues to affect their spiritual lives.
To paraphrase St. Athanasius, fourth century bishop of Alexandria, Christ became human so humanity can become God. This essential point marks how all humans can be united in endeavoring for unity and prosperity. My understanding of this contribution by St. Athanasius to Christian theology is vital to my own growth and continues to inform my holistic approach as a chaplain.
In part 2, our guests begin with the contested topics of Coptic identity and the political involvement of Coptic populations in Egypt, Canada, and the United States. They then delve into the challenges of emotion and subjectivity in conducting fieldwork, the obligation of scholars to become engaged in ongoing violence against Egypt's Coptic communities, and the effects of such developments on the collection of data and access to research materials in Egypt and its diaspora. Candace and Michael conclude by offering advice to those interested in pursuing similar research.
Welcome to the first episode of "Scholars Discuss Coptic Studies," presented by the Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP). This audio blog series aims to bring together junior and established scholars from across North America and to offer insight on the research being conducted on Coptic populations around the world. Our host and facilitator for this episode is Essam Iskander, translator and interpreter for the Diocese of New York and New England. He is joined by Candace Lukasik (PhD candidate in Anthropology, UC Berkley) and Michael Akladios (PhD candidate in History, York University).
Since I was the first to go into Philosophy and Religion, I was usually labeled as different, liberal, often controversial, and sometimes idealistic. That certainly affected my faith and spiritual life in Orthodoxy. I began to gravitate toward the friendly environment of free inquiry and understanding of faith in the academic context of theological education.
Bahjura has a sizeable Christian population. For Copts - as for many Egyptians - emigration out of the village is an economic necessity. Yet, the descendants of Coptic land-owning families continue to share stories of their families' former prestige in Egyptian religious, social, and political life. A discussion of recent encounters I have had in the field will weave a rich tapestry of land, migration, and memory in this upper Egyptian village.
Then, rather unexpectedly, my advisor suggested I commit the next few years of my life thinking, engaging with, and writing about the Copts. He was asking me to return home: to theorize and assemble data out of my community, family, and friends. I stared at him wide-eyed.
On a rainy day in June 1996, my family arrived in Pearson International Airport. Both my parents are originally from the province of Sohag in Upper Egypt (Sa'eed). My father was born in the city of Tima and my mother in the city of Tahta; we are Sa'ayda.
My family and I immigrated to Toronto, Ontario in September 1994. I was two-months shy of my sixth birthday when we left our second-floor apartment in Alexandria and drove south to Cairo International Airport. I vaguely remember growing up on Roushdy Street, playing with friends in the alley between our neighboring buildings, and being able to glimpse the Mediterranean ocean from our balcony on a clear morning.