Current Institutional Affiliation
Postdoctoral Researcher, Anthropology, Forum Transregionale Studien

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
Addressing the Status of Ahl Al-Dhimma in Religious Public Speech in Al-Azbakiya District, Cairo, Egypt

This project explores the circulation of sermons and religious lessons through the district of al-Azbakiya, a popular quarter in Cairo, Egypt. It traces the trajectory of ideas and voices as they move from mosques and churches to other less formal public spaces of interaction in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution. While the dramatic images of religious conflict found in the media render the Muslims and Copts as two monolithic communities locked in seemingly eternal battle, I am interested in investigating the plurality of positions regarding questions of the religious other found within the Muslim and Coptic communities. Through an analysis of public religious speech, specifically the sermons and religious lessons delivered in Al-Azbakiya - a popular religious venue for the Salafi movements and the Coptic Orthodox community - I will track how different visions of the place of Non-Muslims in the umma circulate in the local public sphere. If the Egyptian revolution has opened new possibilities for political action, I aim to understand how public religious speech contributes to the making and remaking of the umma as a political community in the midst of religious polarization. My point of departure is the ongoing, often conflicting, discussions of the proper place of Ahl al-Dhimma, [non-Muslims communities living under Islamic guardianship] in an Islamic polity among Salafi groups, various Islamist groups, and officially appointed Imams. I am interested in how these debates articulate with discussions in the Coptic Church about the proper ways of being Christian within a predominantly Muslim society. Consequently, my goal is to move away from representations of the Muslim and Coptic communities as monolithic wholes.