Sebastian Elsasser joined us for a conversation about his scholarly career and his first book, The Coptic Question in the Mubarak Era (Oxford UP, 2014). He shared his story of visiting Cairo for the first time and the journey which led him to study the social, political, and cultural realities of Coptic life in modern Egypt. Sebastian also explored in conversation the current shifts affecting Coptic communities and his hopes for more critical interrogations of class, gender, and other societal dynamics that intersect with religion in everyday life.
Sebastian is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Oriental and Islamic Studies, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Germany. After studying Islamic Studies, Political Science and Economics at the Free University of Berlin (1999-2005), he worked as a doctoral student and lecturer at the FU Berlin and the CEDEJ (Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales) in Cairo from 2005 to 2011. In 2012 he received his doctorate from the FU Berlin with a thesis on the relations between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. The Coptic Question in the Mubarak Era delves into the discourses that dominated public debates and the political agenda-setting during the Mubarak era. This “Coptic question” is a complex set of issues, ranging from the petty struggles of daily Egyptian life in a bi-religious society to intricate legal and constitutional questions (family law, conversion, and church-building), to the issue of the political participation of the Coptic minority. Through these subjects, the book explores a larger debate around Egyptian national identity.
This is the sixteenth in a series of interviews with artists, academics, activists, and other migrants of Egypt around the world. Check out previous conversations in the series and stay tuned for our next installment.
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