2022/ 2023

Fouad Halbouni

Exercises in Survival: The Moral Lives of Coptic Activists in Post-Revolutionary Egypt

Previous Fellowships: 2021/ 2022, 2020/ 2021

received his PhD in cultural anthropology from Johns Hopkins University (2019) and his MA from the American University in Cairo (2009). His dissertation is titled “Between Promise and Disappointment: Coptic Youth Movements and the Sectarian Question After the Egyptian Revolution”. Fouad has taught several courses at Johns Hopkins University and the Cairo Institute for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CILAS) that reflect his current research interests in diverse sub-disciplines such as the Anthropology of Orthodox Christianity, Memory Studies, Anthropology of Youth Movements, and lastly, the Anthropology of Revolution. He has also co-founded (alongside art critic Ismail Fayed) the History and Cultural Memory Forum, a series of seminars that explore interrelated themes in Arab cultural history such as the legacy of Walter Benjamin in Arab thought, and the history of Egyptian avant-garde movements. The forum has produced specialized booklets on the themes discussed in the seminars. In 2020/22, Fouad was a EUME Fellow and continues with EUME in the academic year 2022/23. 

Exercises in Survival: The Moral Lives of Coptic Activists in Post-Revolutionary Egypt

The “Exercises in Survival” project examines everyday forms of ethical practices among Coptic activists which are involved in reclaiming their disrupted and damaged lives in the face of political repression following the January revolution. The project approaches two interrelated registers of survival: on the one hand, survival as an exercise in self-examination in which the activists reassess and revisit their different moral-political stakes in relation to their changing interpretations of the revolutionary event as it precipitates in different moments in time, and on the other, the different forms of moral responses to the disappointment of revolutionary outcomes, to what they see as a defeated revolution, yet which has its social legacy in the form of an afterlife whereby networks, values, subjectivities, and identities produced through it cannot be simply cast aside but subsist in everyday moral choices. Some activists attempt to find solace in mending and redefining their relations with their past social worlds such as through their local churches and kinship networks, which they broke due to political differences during revolution. For others, it is a quest to redefine their faiths and seek forms of ethical life outside of the confines of the church in which they have formed networks of moral camaraderie.