A Community of Many Voices: Egypt Migrations & the Power of Oral Histories

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Part of the Community Collaboration Learning Series, this conversation explores the creation and use of oral histories.

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No human story exists in isolation. Lived experience is full of interconnections with a diverse population of individuals and with other communities beyond the ones we are part of.

Through conversation between a community archivist and a community historian, we will explore some of this interconnectedness while we place Egyptians within a broader network than what is seen in typical archival practices. We will also learn about oral histories as a method of archiving, with an emphasis on the importance of sharing authority over the material and process with the subject.

About Michael Akladios:

Michael Akladios is a sessional lecturer in Historical Studies at UTM & the Founder and Executive Director of Egypt Migrations: A Public Humanities Project. An historian of 20th century Egyptian migrations, his research and scholarship critically reflect on the mundane transnationalism of Coptic and Muslim middle-class professionals in Cold War North America. He details the historical trajectory of Coptic diasporic activism in a forthcoming chapter in Dalia Abdelhady and Ramy Aly eds., The Routledge Handbook on Middle Eastern Diasporas (Routledge, 2021). You can follow him on twitter @michaelakladios.

About Moska Rokay:

Moska Rokay is the Digital Humanities Research Fellow at the Institute of Islamic Studies (University of Toronto) tasked with coordinating the Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA). She is an advocate for community-centered, activist archives, especially of diaspora communities. She completed her Master of Information at the University of Toronto (2019). In 2020, she was the recipient of the ACA New Professional Award and Archivaria’s Gordon Dodds Student Paper Prize. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO) as Director Without Portfolio.

About Egypt Migrations:

Egypt Migrations is a federally incorporated not-for-profit archival, educational, and community outreach organization committed to preserving and promoting the histories and experiences of all Egypt’s migrants. Formerly, Egypt Migrations was the Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP). CCHP was founded by Michael Akladios in fall 2016 at York University. In 2020, we made the decision to transition from the Coptic Canadian History Project to Egypt Migrations. This organization aims to preserve archival materials, educate through digital resources, and empower Egypt’s migrants and their descendants by countering societal exclusion. We utilize storytelling to reveal meaning without committing the error of defining it. We collaborate with geographically dispersed communities in sharing the stories of any who once called Egypt home and all those first, second and third generation living transnationally. The organization retains its emphasis on the Copts while expanding its lens to Egypt and its migrants, more broadly construed. We shed geographic and disciplinary limitations in favor of heteroglossia – of varied and opposing voices. The benefits of Egypt Migrations are many. This is the first such initiative in the Americas and the first ever repository to preserve and promote the history and memory of Egypt’s migrant populations. By prioritizing heteroglossia, we seek to move beyond constructions of a single group narrative and instead support a variety of perspectives. In this way, the often-marginalized stories of individuals that do not conform to the dominant narrative are able to flourish. With our online globalized presence, Egypt Migrations gets to work with established archives to create more representative holdings and to push the country’s archival collections to be more progressive and acquisition driven. Donated collections reflect the social milieu in which they were produced and preservation allows scholars to then do the work of ‘historical reconstruction.’

About Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA):

The Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA), a collaborative and participatory initiative at the Institute for Islamic Studies (IIS), provides a platform for the missing Muslim voices in Canada.

MiCA acquires, organizes, preserves, and makes accessible records of and about Canadian Muslim individuals and organizations that possess enduring value for the preservation of the history and documentary heritage of Muslims in Canada.


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Community Collaboration Learning Series

The Community Collaborations Learning Series is a series of collaborative events where MiCA hosts a discussion or talk with an archive or related public history/community storytelling/cultural heritage initiative. These events allow MiCA to leverage its platform and audience to showcase the multitude of archives and archives-adjacent initiatives to a wider audience and learn from other related initiatives about community-centred, decolonial, anti-racist, and radical archival practice.

Censure Notice

In the spirit of transparency and out of respect for academic freedom, we wish to remind you that currently the University of Toronto is censured by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). We respect the rights of academic staff to honour this censure, should it affect your participation with the IIS.

As per our statement on the Censure..."the Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA) shall continue with its community facing programming. Canada’s archival landscape offers little to account for Muslim contributions to Canadian heritage. This lack or absence precludes effective storytelling by and about Muslims at a time when the dominant narrative is one of security and threat. MiCA will continue its work to acquire records that capture the multifaceted stories of Muslims in Canada."

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Organizer Institute of Islamic Studies

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