Whose Heritage Counts? Narratives of Coptic People’s Heritage
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This paper examines whose voices narrate official Coptic heritage, what the in-built biases in representations of Coptic heritage are and why, and some of the implications of omissions in narratives of Coptic heritage. It argues that the primary narrator of official Coptic heritage during the twentieth century was the leadership of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Coptic Orthodox Church is the body that holds authority over the sources of heritage, such as church buildings and manuscripts, and also has the resources with which to preserve and disseminate heritage. The Church hierarchy’s leadership was not entirely uncontested, however, a middle ground was continually negotiated to enable lay Copts to play various roles and contribute to the articulation of Coptic heritage. Ultimately, though, alternative voices must operate within the limits set by the Church leadership and also negotiate the layers of exclusion set by society and state.