Writing the History of the Modern Copts: From Victims and Symbols to Actors

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Author: Paul Sedra
Scholars of Egyptian history and politics face a dearth of analytical studies of the modern Coptic Church and community. This state of affairs is due to various factors of a methodological, theoretical, and practical nature. In practical terms, both the Egyptian state and the Coptic Orthodox Church have discouraged exploration of Coptic identity given the political taboo of sectarianism. In theoretical terms, Edward Said's Orientalism led to concerns among scholars about overemphasizing faith in their analyses of Middle Eastern history and politics. In methodological terms, modern Coptic historiography remains hobbled by an ‘enlightenment paradigm’ which discounts the political potential and action of subaltern and clerical forces within the community. This article urges a concern with the ways in which these subaltern and clerical forces shaped the Coptic ‘discursive tradition’ in the course of the twentieth century, as a means by which to restore Copts to modern Egyptian historiography, not as victims or symbols, but as actors in their own right.
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Paul Sedra, “Writing the History of the Modern Copts: From Victims and Symbols to Actors,” History Compass 7, 3 (2009), 1049-1063.http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00607.x/abstract
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History Compass
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Writing the History of the Modern Copts: From Victims and Symbols to Actors
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