|About the Book|
In my ethnography of Coptic social services, I explore the forms of pastoral care deployed by the Coptic Orthodox Church to create spaces where the central element of the Christian tradition---the commandment to love---is realized in a life ofMoreIn my ethnography of Coptic social services, I explore the forms of pastoral care deployed by the Coptic Orthodox Church to create spaces where the central element of the Christian tradition---the commandment to love---is realized in a life of sharing. I look at two main forms of service, charity and development, and focus on the practices put in place to train servants and define need, as well as on the forms of intervention designed to maintain the pastoral connections of care and the positions which can be taken by the actors in the space of service.-Charitable services maintain the unity of the religious community by recognizing the poor as belonging to the Church and extending the space of ecclesiastical life to include them as well. Charity is not intended to lift people up socially, to bring social changes which can make it possible for the needy to move out of poverty- at most, it could be a form of safety net providing minimal help in times of severe hardship. The most important effect of charitable services, however, is their function as a constant reminder to both the servants and the poor that the Church cares for its own.-Holistic development introduces a new conceptualization of need and new practices of dealing with it. The use of project design and management as the main tool of intervention introduces a new language of care in which need becomes an abstract category. This highly formalized language consists of categories prescribing what types of action can be taken and by whom in order to reach the desired final result, what actions must be avoided and suppressed, what are the correct procedures that have to be followed and the techniques that have to be employed in following these procedures.-Social service can be seen as political because it challenges the social, legal and institutional configurations that limit Coptic life by constructing an alternative space of freedom where Copts can live as Christians in public.