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Yesterday I asked: what exactly defines a diaspora? An how do the Copts living abroad fit in?

This week we launched the first large-scale survey of the economic engagement (investment, philanthropic, volunteer, and remittance activity) of Copts living abroad. In the next week or so, look for a series of posts here based on a white paper I authored with Nermien Riad at the request of His Grace Bishop Bakhomious in 2008 called “Aligning the Diaspora for Development.” Today is Part II of this series.

Is there an Egyptian Diaspora? Is there a just a Coptic One? Or Both?

What is Diaspora?


Jennifer Brinkerhoff has listed “several features common to diasporas” based upon the work of international relations scholar Robin Cohen. These will help us define diasporas and see the potential of the Coptic Diaspora in particular. These are features that indicate how much an immigrant community can be considered a diaspora, and how cohesive that diaspora is. Here are four:[1]

  • A collective memory and myth [that is, a story from which the group draws meaning] about the homeland;
  • The idealization of the… ancestral home and a collective commitment to its maintenance, restoration, safety and prosperity, even to its creation;
  • A strong ethnic group consciousness sustained over a long time and based on a sense of distinctiveness, a common history, and the belief in a common fate;
  • A sense of empathy and solidarity with co-ethnic members in other countries of settlement.

So those are the characteristics of diasporas according to Jennifer Brinkerhoff and Robin Cohen.

Next week, Part III will look at Copts living outside Egypt in light of these criteria to see what makes the Coptic diaspora, the Coptic diaspora. It might also help answer the question: is there an Egyptian diaspora?

In the meanwhile, what do you think? Is there a unified Egyptian diaspora, just a Coptic one, or both? Let’s have a conversation in the comments below.


[1] “Digital Diasporas and International Development: Afghan-Americans and the Reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff, Associate Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University; p. 2