Contesting Liturgical Exclusions: Coptic Women Sing Orthodox Hymns Online

An ARCE Member Exclusive

Every month, ARCE offers an online lecture featuring research and experts in the fields of Egyptology and Archaeology to its membership. If you are a member of ARCE and would like to attend, please register using the form available below.

Check out what we have in store for this month!


December 6, 2020 1PM ET/ 8PM EET

(Registration form located at the bottom of this page)

Speaker: Dr. Carolyn Ramzy: Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology School for Studies in Art and Culture/ Music at Carleton University 

Info about the lecture:

Women Deacons in the Coptic Orthodox Church

North America has the largest concentration of Coptic Orthodox Christians outside of Egypt. Like Egypt, the diaspora male Coptic cantors celebrate their heritage through extended liturgical services, touting it as the last link to an Ancient Egyptian past, fiercely protecting it through online archives, virtual lessons, as well as music conventions and competitions. While women can participate in these spaces, they are prohibited from participating as soloists in the community's most sacral context: the Orthodox liturgy, which is a highly ornamented and heterophonic chant that is believed to momentarily merge heaven and earth in song. In this lecture, Dr. Ramzy will trace a burgeoning movement of female cantors who are contesting these liturgical exclusions, recording themselves singing these same hymns and sharing them online. Others have initiated a Facebook page petitioning the Church to allow women to actively participate during liturgical services. In growing "missionary" Coptic churches that target new converts and provide English-only services, some women have even begun to sing harmonies from their places in the pews. Drawing on both virtual and "off line" ethnography, how do Coptic women's sounded experiences in the church and increasingly in virtual "cybercommunities" question some of the community's traditional values around gender, voice, and the pious body? And, how have they depended on "selective acculturation" of North American discourses on piety and gender to navigate their own hyphenated identities on and offline? 

About Carolyn Ramzy: 

Dr. Carolyn Ramzy

Carolyn Ramzy is an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Carleton University. Her research focuses on Egyptian Christian popular music in Egypt and a quickly growing diaspora community in the U.S. and Canada. Specifically, she examines the gendering of Coptic liturgical music and the discursive politics of the community's religious pop songs in the lives of Coptic Orthodox women following the Egyptian uprisings. She has published in "Ethnomusicology, Ethnos, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies."

Registration will close 48 hours before the lecture starts. Registration does not include any future lectures in this series.