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The Copts of Egypt: The Challenges of Modernisation and Identity

The Copts of Egypt: The Challenges of Modernisation and Identity
Vivian Ibrahim

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The Coptic Christians of Egypt have traditionally been portrayed as a 'beleaguered minority'. This book uses newly discovered Coptic archival sources to present a vivid and alternative image of the community, examining Coptic agency in the twentieth century. Vivian Ibrahim reveals a strong Coptic response to the emergence and threats of Political Islam from the 1940s, and examines how Copts negotiated a role for themselves during the colonial period and in Nasser's post-revolutionary Egypt. Dismissing the monolithic portrayal of the community, she highlights the varied Coptic factions and groups that contributed to the identity of the Coptic community in the first half of the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Modernisation, Community and State: Coptic Mobilisation in Egypt (1882–1954)
Chapter 1: Awlad al-Balad: Copts, Religion, Ethnicity and State Building (1798–1882)
Chapter 2: The Making of New National Identities: Copts and the State (1882–1919)
Chapter 3: Constitutional Politics and Political Islam (1922–1946)
Chapter 4: Benevolent and Philanthropic Societies (1882–1945)
Chapter 5: Contesting the Church, Waqf and Corruption (1944–1945)
Chapter 6: Harakat al-Tathir: Youth Politics and the 1952 Revolution (1952–1954)
Conclusion: Coptic Agency in Modern Egyptian History

Author Info

Vivian Ibrahim is Fellow in Middle Eastern History at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.


Vivian Ibrahim writes about the Copts of Egypt with clarity. Her book provides a welcome and eloquent insight into the complexity and controversial dynamics of Egyptian inter-communal relations.
– H.E. Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations (1992-1997)

This book represents a major departure in the current historiography of modern Egyptian history and is a very significant contribution to the field. Vivian Ibrahim presents a fresh and much needed study on the Coptic community, highlighting the internal division vis-à-vis the process of modernisation. She presents an extraordinary case involving a group of Coptic youths who kidnapped the Coptic Pope, in post-revolutionary Egypt, in order to push their political and religious agenda, clearly showing the necessity to break away from past policies, de facto presenting a new portrayal of what has been often presented as a homogeneous and vulnerable community. The book will be of interest to all scholars of modern Egyptian history and politics but also to those interested in the history of the Copts as a Christian minority in the Middle East.
– Roberto Mazza, Assistant Professor of History, Western Illinois University

This is an important and timely book which challenges the standard portrayal of identity politics in the modern history of Egypt and of the Arab Middle East. By bringing together a multiplicity of Coptic voices, groups and tensions Vivian Ibrahim skillfully deconstructs and questions a number of assumptions on the Copts including the "persecuted minority" discourse and essentialist representation of the community as a unified religious entity. She does so meticulously through a diligent mining of an impressive range of Arabic and English sources which allow the author to unveil unexplored facets of community state/relations and, most originally, the changing socio-economic, institutional and ideological foundations which underscored the evolution of a fractured Coptic polity. This book is community history at its best, an essential critical read for those interested in Egyptian nation and state building as well as in the history of Middle Eastern Christians.
– Nelida Fuccaro, Reader in the Modern History of the Arab Middle East, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London

‘Vivian Ibrahim’s foray into this sparse field of inquiry is a welcome one… Ibrahim has performed a vitally important service for modern Egyptian history… Thanks to scholarly interventions like Vivian Ibrahim’s, the study of modern Coptic history is gradually attracting the interest of graduate students… And like Ibrahim, they are finding innovative ways of circumventing the official restrictions imposed by these institutions upon their research.’
– Arab Studies Journal

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: Tauris Academic Studies
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Library of Modern Middle East Studies

ISBN: 9781848854994
Publication Date: 30 Nov 2010
Number of Pages: 288
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 5 bw integrated illustrations

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