Religious buildings in Egypt tell a complex and rich history of religious life. A once thriving cosmopolitan country, Egypt was home to its local Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities. It also became a site of refuge for many (im)migrant communities, such as Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and others. The visibility of religious buildings belonging to various faith communities evoke a sense of nostalgia of a perceived pluralistic past.
In the summer of 2016, I left Alexandria for Toronto. I was excited. But, it was a bitter-sweet excitement. I packed my entire room and left life-long friends for a whole new city; a whole new country on a whole new continent. I wanted to come. I had already taken that step and made my decision. My mom didn't want me to go, but I was insistent. It hurt, but I wanted to come.
We hope you find this discussion educational and are motivated to help preserve the history and heritage of your communities for future generations. Archival preservation offers many benefits to you, your family, your community, your city, and to our collective understanding of diverse immigrant communities that have, and continue to contribute to these many places we now call 'home.'
My story is not unique. Identities are complex, constantly changing, morphing to our circumstances. They can anchor us to a glorified past or romanticized national experiences we have no tangible connections to. They are built up, torn down and put together in varied ways, by diverse people. They are formed, reformed and deconstructed. Perhaps the only constant is that identities are never constant.
Fieldwork is expensive. It's imperative to do extensive research long before booking a flight, hotel, and embarking on that delightful journey to Egypt. If this will be your first trip, I have compiled a few tips and tricks to get you started. If you're a veteran at this, perhaps some of these could save you time and money. Happy Holidays!
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.
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).
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.
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.