Future projects share a common goal: to contend that though national, ethnic, and religious identities have shaped people’s lives in powerful ways, immigrants based their actions on a selective reading of such ideologies that was most often expressed in choices to live their own kind of transcultural lives.
In general, my study of Coptic identity is always framed in relation to questions of national belonging and the homeland, because I believe that you can’t understand Copts without understanding Egypt and vice versa.
Through intimate oral histories, Coptic Queer Stories helps uncover how migration affects culture, and how community may be inspired or restrained by tradition. I believe these unheard and unique perspectives only make Coptic cultures richer, and perhaps healthier, as we move toward inclusivity.
I try to explain that Copts are not Western Christians lost in the Middle East, or living relics of “one of the oldest Church in the World.” At the same time, I don’t want to minimize the violence and discrimination Copts suffer. It is an exercise at equilibrium which is sometimes difficult.
I think the Coptic identity is a dynamic and transforming concept, and that it is our job—as historians—to show how it has changed in response to different events, challenges, and opportunities.
For Coptic immigrants, cultural diversity is indeed a fact of life. Thank you to all those who have participated and a warm welcome to all those hearing about us for the first time. We look forward to many more years of collaboration and growth.
During the Sadat era, he lost many of his friends to Salafi organizations. He recalls vividly being called “kafir” by an old friend while the friend’s mother pled with him: “Yousief, Yousief, forgive him—he makes our life miserable too.” Baba kept walking, and between that and the metal factory and no college degree, it was time to move on.
On the surface, St. Athanasius comes across as a figure of resistance, keeping the faith against unfaithful emperors and heretical Christians. Yet, much of his legacy is missing from such accounts and may be revealed in the nuances of his story. One piece of his legacy that I aim to highlight and to show as relevant to Copts today is his responses to calls for unity; when he chose to join hands and when he chose to walk away.
For "Arrivals and Departures: the Journeys of the Copts and their Artifacts," attendees were invited to reflect on their journeys, write a short note, and then place it on a mirror for the next participant to reflect and add upon; like ships passing in the night. These ephemeral memories stuck to a mirror only briefly, now transformed to a digital medium and retold, carry with them the experiences of Coptic emigres who’ve come to call Canada home.
My first book, which grew out of my PhD dissertation, is called Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (University of California Press, 2003). It is as much a history of modern Africa and the British Empire as it is of the Middle East. People often ask how I became interested in a subject like this one. I think it all started when, as a child, I would pore over the maps in my father’s National Geographic atlas. The maps for Africa and the Middle East always mesmerized me because I knew so little about what they contained.