Skip to main content

Religious Identity and Borderless Territoriality in the Coptic e-Diaspora

Abstract

In recent decades, Coptic Egyptian immigrants have steadily adopted new homelands throughout the world, most significantly in Europe, North America, and Australia. Their efforts perpetuate their religious and cultural identity and connect diaspora communities and experiences to the mother church as well as to the realities of marginalization and persecution of their co-religionists in Egypt. However, relatively little research has been carried out on the virtual or digital presences of diaspora Copts, all the more significant in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring. Focusing on religious identity, this article fills a lacuna by analyzing three case studies of electronic identity mediation and preservation in the Coptic diaspora: (1) the online ecclesiastical-pastoral and educational presence of Bishop Suriel of Melbourne, (2) the spiritual-social-cultural mission of the Los Angeles-based Coptic television station LogosTV, and (3) the global collaborative academic project of the digital Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia. These are part of an emerging electronic Coptic diaspora (e-diaspora)—a form of borderless territoriality—that functions to compensate for the loss of territorial and socio-religious-cultural-political control in Egypt and provide Copts with virtual territorial gains and borderless space for community and consciousness raising.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. International law and agreements such as the United Nations agreements on human rights, against slavery, human trafficking, etc.

  2. http://bishopsuriel.blogspot.com/ (accessed January 30, 2016).

  3. Email correspondence with Bishop Suriel, December 2014.

  4. In the early 2000s, attempts to establish Coptic television programs in America were successful, but only for a short period due to a lack of adequate financial resources. In 2007, two Coptic channels were launched and have been broadcasting from Egypt 24 h a day to most of the Coptic world via satellite: Aghapy TV (www.aghapy.tv) and Coptic TV (www.ctvchannel.tv).

  5. Since the late 1960s, CGU has earned an international reputation in Coptic Studies, most famously because of Professor James Robinson’s leadership in translating, studying, and publishing the Nag Hammadi codices discovered in Upper Egypt in 1945. This Coptic library is partially digitized and archived at the Claremont Colleges Digital Library: http://ccdl.libraries.claremont.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/nha (accessed January 30, 2016).

  6. http://copticscriptorium.org/ (accessed January 30, 2016).

  7. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/html/coptic/coptic-home.html (accessed January 30, 2016).

References

  • Armanios, F., & Amstutz, A. (2013). Emerging Christian media in Egypt: clerical authority and the visualization of women in Coptic video films. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 45(3), 513–533.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Atiya, Aziz S., ed. (1991). The Coptic Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan. [Subsequently published online and updated as the Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia: www.cgu.edu/cce].

  • Brinkerhoff, J. M. (2005). Digital diasporas and semi-authoritarian states: the case of the Egyptian Copts. Public Administration and Development, 25(3), 193–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brinkerhoff, J. M. (2009). Digital diasporas: identity and transnational engagement. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Brinkerhoff, J. M. (2015). Assimilation and heritage identity: lessons from the Coptic diaspora. Journal of International Migration and Integration. (January).

  • Defining and Identifying Middle Eastern Christian Communities in Egypt (DIMECCE). (2015). Research findings presented at “Middle Eastern Christians in the Diaspora: Past and Present, Continuity and Change” Conference, University of St. Andrews, 26–27 May.

  • Farag, L. M. (Ed.). (2014). The Coptic Christian heritage: history, faith, and culture. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gabra, G. (Ed.). (2014). Coptic civilization: two thousand years of Christianity in Egypt. New York: American University in Cairo Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haddad, Y., & Donovan, J. (2013). Good Copt, bad Copt: competing narratives on Coptic identity in Egypt and the United States. Studies in World Christianity, 19(3), 208–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hall, D. D. (1997). Lived religion in America: toward a history of practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iskander, E. (2012). Sectarian conflict in Egypt: Coptic media, identity and representation. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCallum, F. (2011). Religious diaspora and information communications technology: the impact of globalization on communal relations in Egypt. In Z. Mahjoob & E. C. Murphy (Eds.), The New Arab Media: technology, image and perception. Reading: Ithaca.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGuire, M. B. (2008). Lived religion: faith and practice in everyday life. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Saad, S. M. (2010). The contemporary life of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United States. Studies in World Christianity, 16(3), 207–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saad, S. M. (2014). Coptic civilization in the diaspora. In Gabra (2014).

  • Saad, S. M., & Westbrook, D. A. (2015). Copts, scripturalization, and identity in the diaspora. In V. L. Wimbush (Ed.), Scripturalizing the human: the written as the political. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Safran, W. (1991). Diasporas in modern societies: myths of homeland and return. Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 1(1), 83–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Suriel, B. A. (2014). Habib Girgis: Coptic Orthodox educator and a light in the darkness. Ph.D. Dissertation. New York: Fordham University.

  • Takla, H. N. (2014). The Coptic language: the link to Ancient Egyptian. In Farag (2014).

  • Vargas, J. A. (2012). “Spring awakening: how an Egyptian Revolution began on Facebook.” The New York Times, Feb. 17.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Donald A. Westbrook.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Westbrook, D.A., Saad, S.M. Religious Identity and Borderless Territoriality in the Coptic e-Diaspora. Int. Migration & Integration 18, 341–351 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-016-0479-8

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-016-0479-8

Keywords

  • Copts
  • Coptic Orthodox Church
  • Diaspora
  • Assimilation
  • Territoriality
  • Identity