Gender, religion and society : a study of women and convent life in coptic orthodox Egypt
M.A. Cultural Anthropology Thesis,Uppsala University, May (2003)
This study deals with the interrelations between gender, religion and society in the context of contemporary Coptic Orthodox Egypt, with a focus on Coptic nuns and convent life. In the wake of religious revitalization in today’s Egypt, Muslim as well as Coptic, monasticism has strengthened its position in the Coptic culture. New religious institutions have been established for women and an increasing number of women choose to live a monastic life. The study explores in what way women’s choice to live a convent life is related to the situation of Coptic women in society. By discussing from the approach of female agency, constraints and possibilities for individual action and gender role patterns, answers are sought to the question why women opt for monasticism. The values and virtues in monasticism correspond to established values in society such as values of purity and virginity. Women who choose a monastic lifestyle fully embrace these values, and are hence enjoying a position that elevates their status as women within religion and within society. The women in convents experience their domain of agency as increased, due to their possibility to focus on their aims, which would have been restricted by ordinary family life.