Egypt Migrations is a federally incorporated not-for-profit educational, community outreach, and archival organization.
Formerly, Egypt Migrations was the Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP). CCHP was founded by Michael Akladios in fall 2016. Michael had a vision to establish the first cultural institution and repository serving immigrant Copts in Canada. Miray Philips joined in 2017 as the Blog editor and we extended the project’s activities to the United States. In 2020, we made the decision to transition from the Coptic Canadian History Project to Egypt Migrations.
As the Coptic Canadian History Project, we focused primarily on Coptic Christians in Egypt and its diasporas. Copts are the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. Concentrated in Egypt, they represent approximately 10% of that country’s population. There are also Coptic populations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, with a significant presence in Sudan. Permanent emigration to North America, Australia, and Europe began with exchange students and young families in the 1950s.
Scholarship and popular discourse about the “Middle East” rarely attend to the social lives of Copts and other minorities in and of Egypt. Yet minority migrant populations from the Middle East and North Africa often play a major role in the cosmopolitan character of these societies. This organization aims to preserve, educate, and empower Egypt’s migrants and their descendants by countering this exclusion and utilizing storytelling to reveal meaning without committing the error of defining it. We collaborate with geographically dispersed communities in sharing the stories of any who once called Egypt home and all those first, second and third generation living transnationally. The organization retains its emphasis on the Copts while expanding its lens to Egypt and its migrants, more broadly construed. We shed geographic and disciplinary limitations in favor of heteroglossia – of varied and opposing voices.
We settled on ‘Egypt Migrations’ for two important reasons. First, “Egypt” does not ascribe a national affiliation for migrating actors, while still recognizing the power of the nation and its borders on people’s lives. In short, we may be from Egypt but we may not all see ourselves as Egyptians. Second, “migrations” allows us to tell stories of internal migrations, emigration and immigration globally. Egypt Migrations builds on the success of the CCHP to preserve and democratize access to stories that reveal the impact of demographic minorities on twentieth century international migrations.
Our organization was founded with the goal of identifying, archiving, digitizing, preserving, and providing free access to source materials that reflect the knowledge, collective memory, and experiences of Egypt’s Coptic population, Coptic immigrants, and their descendants. As we expand that goal to all Egypt’s migrants, several obstacles impede future research. First, there is a scarcity of records pertaining to these groups in public archives. Second, many individuals and organizations in Egypt and across immigrant communities have amassed troves of archival records of great value to uncovering the histories of marginalized immigrant communities. Yet, these collections are not well maintained and are in some cases partially destroyed. The original material remains at the mercy of the heat and liable to degrade with the passage of time. These issues create barriers that make the advancement of historical knowledge difficult. Given these obstacles, Egypt Migrations responds to this reality and bridges the gap between public archives, immigrant communities, and academic scholars.
The benefits of Egypt Migrations are many. This is the first such initiative in the Americas and the first ever repository to preserve and promote the history and memory of Egypt’s migrant populations. By prioritizing heteroglossia, we seek to move beyond constructions of a single group narrative and instead support a variety of perspectives. In this way, the often-marginalized stories of individuals that do not conform to the dominant narrative are able to flourish. With our online globalized presence, Egypt Migrations gets to work with established archives to create more representative holdings and to push the country’s archival collections to be more progressive and acquisition driven. Donated collections reflect the social milieu in which they were produced and preservation allows scholars to then do the work of ‘reconstruction.’ Public scholarship and education expose narratives that make it difficult for those seeking to dilute a community’s history or twist it to their own ends.
Recognizing our potential for building bridges, fostering research, and advancing social and cultural equity, the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections (CTASC) and the Department of History at York University have partnered with Egypt Migrations. We are also in partnership with the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at UCSB and a number of community organizations, such as El Mahaba Center in Nashville, Coptic Queer Stories in southern California, and the Portuguese and Greek Canadian History Projects in Toronto.
We are deeply committed to empowering young professionals through paid internships and volunteer training, and encouraging both community involvement and scholarly collaboration. We ask all Egypt’s migrants to consider archiving and preserving their family records, all established and junior scholars to introduce their work, and all interested individuals and institutions to participate directly, share their stories, and leave something new for future generations.
How you can help today: Support the work of Egypt Migrations. We accept financial, in-kind, and archival donations. Share our content and encourage others to do the same.