Claire Koen

A photo of Claire Koen, a Franciscan priest and a doctoral student in the ancient Christianity track in the Theology Department at Fordham University



B.A. - Marian University 2008

M.T.S. - Boston College School of Theology and Ministry 2017

Th.M. - Boston College School of Theology and Ministry 2018


Claire Koen is a doctoral candidate and OCSC NEH Fellow in the Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity program in Fordham University’s Theology Department. Her research interests include race, ethnicity, demonologies, and the use of color symbolism to distinguish good from evil during Late Antiquity. She employs the study of papyrology, Coptic studies, postcolonial thought, and critical race theory in her research, while working in conversation with the Eastern Orthodox Tradition. Originally from England, she grew up in Indianapolis and currently resides in Boston with her husband, two children, and wheaten terrier.

Claire's dissertation, titled Color Symbolism and the Construction of Demonologies in Early Egyptian Christianities: An Early Christian Technique of Identity Formation, centers around the Egyptian monastic writings of the 2nd-5th centuries, with a particular focus on the emergence of the trope of the “Ethiopian demon” and is intended to lay the historical groundwork for
a further project of reckoning with the roots of anti-Black racism in present day Orthodox parishes and communities. Late Antique Egyptian monks were both concerned for the conversion of their dark-skinned Blemmyan and Nubian neighbors and prejudiced towards these neighbors on the basis of skin tone. The development of monastic demonological framework within the fraught socio-political context of Roman Egypt led toward the interweaving of cultural prejudices towards darker-skinned persons with genuine spiritual teachings. In order to consider the effects of color-coded language in antiquity, she traces the emergence of this trope through the study and translation of neglected but important sources, such as the sermons of Shenoute of Atripe, the Life of Paul of Tamma, and the Coptic Life of Aaron.