Presentation title: Transnational Politics of Christian Persecution
Cultural trauma theory illuminates the meaning-making process that collectivities undergo in the wake of tragedy. I advance this theory by attending to the role of interpretive fields, and specifically religion, in shaping the construction of cultural trauma. I approach religion as a cultural resource that offers meaning-making tools through which people negotiate the meaning and memory of violence, and subsequently strategize for action. Based on transnational fieldwork among Coptic-Orthodox Christians in Egypt, Kuwait, and the United States, I examine competing cultural trauma narratives in response to a brutal wave of violence against Copts in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. I trace three narratives: First, some Copts embrace the theodicy of martyrdom, finding solace in the promise of the afterlife. Second, some Copts reject the theodicy of martyrdom in favor of a theology of advocacy that emphasizes the right to life. Third, some Copts negotiate a hybrid theology of advocacy and theodicy of martyrdom, emphasizing the right to life on earth and in heaven. Since cultural trauma narratives are not localized to the victim group or nation-state, I conclude with a broader discussion of the transnational politics of Christian persecution, shedding light on the appropriation of Coptic martyrdom by American conservatives for political ends. These contested transnational narratives reveal how religion shapes the meaning, memory, and politics of Christian persecution.
Miray Philips is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Her research on the transnational politics, meaning, and memory of sectarian and political violence in Egypt, Syria, and the United States has been published in the American Journal of Cultural Sociology, Memory Studies, and the Minnesota Journal of International Law. Formerly, Miray was a Visiting Research Fellow at both Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Affairs. Her work has been generously supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Louisville Institute, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy, and the UMN Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, among others. Miray has an MA in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a BS in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Michigan. She was born in Egypt, raised in Kuwait, and currently lives in the United States.
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