Burial Belonging: Foreign Cemeteries and Local Communities in Late Nineteenth-Century Alexandria, Egypt

Friday, January 6, 2012: 2:30 PM
Chicago Ballroom B (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Shane E. Minkin, Swarthmore College

This paper reimagines understandings of foreign and local in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Alexandria, Egypt.  It argues that foreign and local were not yet distinctive categories during this time period, contrary to much existing literature about the city. 

Using the foreign cemeteries as a starting point, this paper shows that managing the death of foreigners, both a sacred and permanent endeavor, compelled Alexandria’s government and population to conceptualize belonging as simultaneously inclusive and exclusive.  This process highlighted the open possibilities of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, when foreign communities could use requests for burial space both to stake and to confirm broader claims of local belonging within Alexandria as a whole.

Reading petitions from foreign communal leadership and internal Egyptian governmental correspondence against British consular reports from Alexandria, this paper demonstrates that this exclusive space for the dead fostered an inclusive environment for the living.