The Production of Space in Late 19th- and Early 20th-Century Egypt

AHA Session 243
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Room 402 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Michelle Campos, University of Florida

Session Abstract

The papers on this panel approach Egyptian history during the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the lens of critical geography and social theories about the production of space. The production of space on various scales--ranging from trans-imperial networks, to cities, to the human body--entailed the mobilization of significant human and natural resources, the institutionalization of new forms of governmentality, and the development of new political and social practices for Egyptians negotiating colonial worlds in the course of everyday life. Case studies from throughout the period pose the question of how careful attention to questions of scale and the production of space help us to rethink the practice and experience of colonialism in Egypt.

The first paper, “Subaltern Violence and the Spatialization of Class Relations in Interwar Alexandria,” explores the relationship between the production of space and social formation in early interwar Alexandria, highlighting the effects of recursive migration and new socioeconomic relationships on the built environment of the city. The second paper, “The Well-Watered Subject: Economy, disease, and the relationship between space and subjectivity in colonial Egypt,” deploys an innovative combination of environmental and spatial approaches to social history to trace the links among the construction of the 1902 Aswan dam (1898-1902), new agricultural labor regimes, the increased incidence of environmental disease, and formulations of (physical) colonial subjectivity in Egypt. The third paper, “Nothing but Scum Jettisoned on the Edge of the Desert: Crime and Empire in Port Sa`id, 1870-1890,” analyzes the burgeoning Mediterranean city of Port Sa'id in the 1870s and 80s through the lens of crime and "vice." By reading the spatial coding of vice, this paper interrogates the significance of social control and racial exclusion in the production of space. Finally, the fourth paper, “The Egyptian Labor Corps: Migrant Labor, Imperial Logistics, and the Social History of Modern Egypt,” investigates the internal and trans-territorial repertoires of contentious politics that resulted from British efforts to recruit Egyptians as logistical laborers in the Great War (1914-1918).

By focusing on questions inspired by recent work in the diverse fields of critical geography, the history of colonialism, and the historiography of the Middle East., this panel treats the production of space as an index of practices of power and relations of rule on the ground. The histories of migration, war, the built environment, and disease help us to analyze what constituted colonial space in Egypt at the turn of the century and the historical actors and processes implicated in its production.

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