Egypt Migrations is a federally incorporated not-for-profit public humanities and community outreach organization.
Formerly, Egypt Migrations was the Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP). CCHP was founded by Michael Akladios in fall 2016. Miray Philips joined in 2017 as the Blog editor. And in 2020, we made the 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. The term “Copt” is a European form of the Arabic “Qibt”, which is derived from the Greek “Aigyptos” meaning Egyptian. 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 began with a few families in the late 1950s.
Middle East studies rarely attends to the social lives of Copts in research on Egypt. Minority migrant populations from the Middle East and North Africa often play a minor role in emerging scholarship. This project is an attempt at countering this exclusion. We will preserve, empower and collaborate in sharing the stories of any who once called Egypt home and all those first, second and third generation living transnationally. With the name change comes a reconceptualization of our mission. The project will retain its emphasis on the Copts while expanding its lens to Egypt and its migrants, more broadly construed. We will shed the geographic and disciplinary limitations of the past.
We settled on ‘Egypt Migrations’ for two important reasons. First, “Egypt” does not ascribe a national affiliation for migration actors, while still recognizing the power of the nation and its borders on people’s lives. Second, “migrations” allows us to tell stories of internal migrations, emigration and immigration globally. Egypt Migrations will build on the success of the CCHP to share in 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 diverse 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 intends to bridge the gap between public archives, immigrant communities, and academic scholars.
The benefits of Egypt Migrations are many. This is the first such initiative in Canada and the first ever repository to prioritize the history and memory of Egypt’s migrant populations. By prioritizing the diverse experiences, 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 allow scholars to then do the work of ‘reconstruction.’ Public scholarship exposes 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. Help support the project. Donate your time. Donate your stories. Encourage others to do the same. We are deeply committed to 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.