When you heard the protest songs and saw the signs in the streets, and looked at how public space transformed, it became apparent that the archive was everywhere and its mediums were diverse. So ultimately my draw to history was living through histor(ies) in the making and thinking about what historians of the future would write about these moments. One of the most exciting things about studying modern Coptic history is that there is so much that has yet to be written about it.
Writing from a Toronto suburb, this as an account of what I have seen. I ask for critical reflection on the world we are perpetually in the process of creating and I beg contemplation as to how we wish to be remembered by future generations.
At the heart of such debates, past and present, is the tremendous influence of Pope Shenouda and the many meanings of belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. In order to chart this history and offer insights on its contemporary significance, we begin with the challenges faced by early Copts in North America and then outline the changing nature of Coptic diasporic communities as a consequence of rising immigration from Upper Egypt, following the 2011 revolution.
As a modern Egypt scholar, I aim to empower Copts as actors in their own narratives rather than subjects within geopolitical discourse. I write to normalize Copts’ Egyptianness, without placing them in a separate category as a ‘minority’.
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 an effort to support our colleagues researching Copts across disciplines, we have generated a list of archives in the United States and Egypt that are open to scholars. This general overview in no way claims to be an exhaustive list of archival repositories on modern Coptic history, but rather an introduction to some significant collections for researchers interested in consulting primary sources.
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.
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.
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.