Bård Kårtveit, Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo and guest researcher at the Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Being a Coptic Man. Masculinity, gender and minority vulnerability among Egyptian Copts

Numerous studies have explored gender relations in the Middle East with a focus on women’s experiences, subjectivities and social strategies. By contrast, men’s understanding of themselves as men, and their relations with women has been the subject of few studies. One exception is Marcia Inhorn’s work on fertility problems in the Middle East, and on the rise of a ‘new Arab man’ (Inhorn 2013). Leaning on Connells notion of hegemonic masculinity (1987, 1995), she describes the emergence of a new generation of men who are driven by other life-goals, other ideals and other notions of ‘how to be a man’ than those held by men of earlier generations.

Inspired by Inhorns assertions, this project explores what it means to be a man, and a member of the Coptic community in todays Egypt. Based on fieldwork among Coptic men in Alexandria in 2014 and 2015, this study looks at what kind of challenges they face, what ideals they relate to, and what kind of responsibilities they ascribe to themselves as fathers, as husbands, as Copts, and as members of a wider Egyptian community. It will be argued that young Coptic men face a set of social concerns and expectation that differ from those facing earlier generation, in particular within the family sphere. Based on findings from Alexandria, this presentation will explore how these processes are reinforced by broader developments in Egyptian society, but also by their distinct experiences of vulnerability as members of a non-muslim community in a society ridden with sectarian tensions. 

Bård Kårtveit completed a PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen, Norway in 2010, with a thesis on identity, belonging and emigration among Christian Palestinians in the West Bank. In recent years he has thought Middle Eastern studies at the University of Oslo, and coordinated a research project on civil-military relations in the Middle East and Latin America, based at Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen. In 2014 his monograph Dilemmas of Attachment. Identity and Belonging among Palestinian Christians was published at Brill. Based at the Dept. of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, Kårtveit is currently working on three-year post.doc project entitled 'Being a Coptic Man', on masculinity, family relations and political engagement among Egyptian Copts.

All seminars in the series.