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.
Drawing on themes outlined in Candace Lukasik’s recent review of the Copts in Modernity Conference, this brief essay seeks to expand the conceptualizations of Coptic reform in the modern period. Examining a Coptic organization’s growth following their non-cooperation with Protestant expectations represents an interesting alternative to dominant teleological narratives of aligning Coptic ‘renaissance’ to a Western missionary or colonial source. The story of Al-Asdiqa’ allows us to consider how such groups may have co-opted the language of modernity to define reform on their terms.
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.