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The Copts: 'Modern Sons Of The Pharaohs'?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter reviews the Coptic identity constructions that can be subsumed as 'Pharaonism', and tries to assess them with reference to both ancient sources and modern developments. It explores whether the Copts in any way 'modern sons of the Pharaohs'? Broadly speaking, Pharaonism is a way of claiming a deeply rooted national identity that transcends the religious opposition between Egypt's Muslim majority and its indigenous Christian minority, the Copts. The chapter argues that Pharaonism is shaped in a remarkable degree by western Orientalism, and that its main historical tenets, such as the Copts' indebtedness to pre-Christian, Pharaonic culture or their anti-Greek nationalism, can no longer be maintained. Instead of emphasizing the perennial harmony that existed between Egyptian Muslims and Christians, the Coptic Church is now rather profiling itself as the 'Church of the Martyrs', developing a mode of discourse that has deep medieval roots.

Keywords: anti-Greek nationalism; Christian-Muslim relations; Coptic Church; Coptic identity; Egypt's Muslim majority; Pharaonism; western Orientalism



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