Copts and the Security State
Violence, Coercion, and Sectarianism in Contemporary Egypt
Laure Guirguis


Contents and Abstracts
1 Institutionalized Violence and the Identity-State
chapter abstract

Although sectarianism depends on a juridical and political order partly inherited from the Ottoman Empire, this legacy does not explain its contemporary specificities. Sectarianism has endured to the extent that the modern state has consolidated it, while profoundly modifying it. In other words, the state is the principal agent enforcing sectarianism.

2 Purity as an Embodiment of Security?
chapter abstract

This chapter deals with the formation of national and community imaginaires from the nineteenth century to the present day. During the nineteenth-century nation- and state-building processes, religion became an identity marker defining both nation and state in opposition to the occupying powers, which were considered as Christian. By the same token, group-representations — Egyptian nationalist, Coptic, or Islamist —became embedded in this logic of exclusion that governs the definition of the self and the other, and that mobilizes fear.

3 The Coptic Church as Space of Resistance and Ally of the Regime
chapter abstract

This chapter offers an analysis of the infra-community dynamics that have bolstered sectarianism. It shows how the transformation of the Church under Shenuda III and the contemporary politicization of the minority phenomenon were determined reciprocally, and how they also both depended on the relationship between the Church and the regimes.

4 Intracommunitarian Dynamics and Tensions
chapter abstract

This chapter sheds light on various dynamics in the community scene, from clerical rivalries to youth dissent to new kinds of religiosity and opposition to the Patriarch. Indeed, since the 2000s the clerical hierarchy's unconditional support for the regime has been the subject of ever-increasing criticism from Coptic youth and reformers.

5 Sectarianism, Authoritarianism, and the Dynamics of Fear
chapter abstract

This chapter continues an analysis of the interconnection between identity and authoritarian logics. Instead of focusing on the distinction between authoritarian and democratic regimes and the alleged transition to democracy, the chapter relies on the Foucauldian notion of governmentality. This concept allows us to further an analysis of the exercise of social, political, and symbolic power in contemporary societies and to combine the analysis of micro- and macro-powers. This chapter shows how the controlled pluralization of the Egyptian political scene has strengthened sectarianism, though not without several changes, and it pays special attention to Muslim Brotherhood attitudes toward Copts.

6 Contesting Sectarianism
chapter abstract

The sixth chapter presents the Coptic strategies of resistance to state-imposed processes of minoritization. In return, it shows how the regime and the Coptic Church have integrated or neutralized critics. Finally, it interrogates the impact of advocacy activisms on social changes, while slightly shifting the terms of debate on the role of "civil society:" if the world is now in a phase of "de-democratization" how then should we reassess the impact of advocacy activisms and of the January 25 revolution on social and political change?

Conclusion: 2011-2015: Subversion and the Restoration of Identity Logic
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the dynamics of the January 25 revolution and shows how the counter revolutionary governments of former President Muhammad Morsi and current President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi have reactivated sectarian discourses. While the January 25 revolution constitutes the most radical attempt to break the vicious circle of violence and sectarianism, revolutionary practices had not yet invented a coherent system of meaning that would replace the old one. And, the ongoing counter-revolution has established a new regime of fear.