posted July 9, 2008

Book Chronicles Coptic Community in Michigan

Dr. Eliot Dickinson, who is concluding a three-year visiting appointment to the Hope College political science faculty, is the author of "Copts in Michigan," a chronicle of the state's Egyptian Christian community.

The book is part of the "Discovering the Peoples of Michigan" series of Michigan State University Press, and was released earlier this summer.

According to Dickinson, the Copts are a relatively small and tight-knit ethno-religious group of approximately 3,000 living primarily in the Detroit area.  He noted that as a group they tend to be highly educated, with a strong emphasis within the community on careers in engineering and medicine.

The Coptic immigration to Michigan, he said, began in the mid 1960s and is driven by global socio economic and political forces.

"Copts are leaving Egypt due to relative economic deprivation and severe religious persecution fueled by historical enmity between Muslims and Christians and only exacerbated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," Dickinson said.  "In Egypt, a lack of opportunity combines with religious persecution to form a powerful push force, whereas brighter economic prospects and religious freedom in Michigan represent an equally strong pull force.  Aiding the pattern of settlement in Michigan is an extensive social network that helps newcomers integrate into American society."

Dickinson's research focus is on European/German politics, African/South African politics and the politics of immigration.  Following his Hope appointment he will join the political science faculty at Western Oregon University in the fall.

Immediately prior to coming to Hope he had held a one-year appointment at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, through a Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.  Among other honors through the years, he was an International Parliamentary Intern in the German Bundestag in 2003; a Holocaust Educational Foundation (HEF) Summer Institute Fellow at Northwestern University in June 2000; and an Austrian Fulbright Commission English language assistant in Salzburg, Austria, from 1995 to 1997.

Dickinson completed his doctorate in political science at Purdue University in 2004 with an emphasis on comparative politics, international relations and political theory.  He completed his master's in German and political science at Bowling Green State University in 1999, and his bachelor's with majors in German and political science at Washington State University in 1994.

While at Hope he taught courses on Western European politics, with an emphasis on the Netherlands and Germany, as well as the politics of immigration in the United States.  He was also a faculty advisor to the college's Model United Nations and the Hope Democrats.

Copies of "Copts in Michigan" will be available in the college's Hope-Geneva Bookstore, located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street.