Amy Fallas is a PhD Candidate in History at UC Santa Barbara and holds an MA in History from Yale University. She is currently an IHC Dissertation Fellow for the 2023-2024 year and is an affiliate at the Orient Institut in Beirut and the American University in Beirut to write her dissertation "“Their Own Poor:” Communal Identities, Charitable Societies, and the Making of Sectarianism in Modern Egypt, 1879-1939." Her most recent work includes the peer-reviewed article “Charity and Philanthropy in Middle East History” for History Compass and a book chapter “Sectarian Politics? Securitization, Urban Development, and Coptic Advocacy in Cairo” for the AUC Press edited volume Cairo Securitized. Her analysis and public scholarship appear in The Washington Post, Jadaliyya, Mada Masr, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, ABC Religion and Ethics Report, Religion & Politics, and more. Her research has been generously supported by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, the American Society for Church History (ASCH), and others.
“Their Own Poor:” Communal Identities, Charitable Societies, and the Making of Sectarianism in Modern Egypt, 1879-1939
This project examines the establishment, growth, and influence of sect-based charitable societies in Egypt during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During this period (1879-1939), hundreds of associations (jam‘iyyat khayreyya) formed a crucial yet informal social assistance infrastructure to meet demands for health, nutrition, housing, and education unmet by an Egyptian state burdened by European colonial and financial constraints. While the mandate of these sect-based associations (ta’ifa) was to serve ‘their own poor,’ into the twentieth century many non-Muslim societies pivoted toward offering social services outside their religious communities to demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of the Egyptian poor beyond sectarian lines. I argue that charitable associations advanced both a form of inter-religious solidarity as well as communal boundary-making at a time when the meaning of sectarianism in Egypt was debated and forged in the modern period.