Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics, and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo

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Intentionally excluded from formal politics in authoritarian states by reigning elites, do the common people have concrete ways of achieving community objectives? Contrary to conventional wisdom, this book demonstrates that they do. Focusing on the political life of the shab (or popular classes) in Cairo, Diane Singerman shows how men and women develop creative and effective strategies to accomplish shared goals, despite the dominant forces ranged against them. Starting at the household level in one densely ...
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Overview

Intentionally excluded from formal politics in authoritarian states by reigning elites, do the common people have concrete ways of achieving community objectives? Contrary to conventional wisdom, this book demonstrates that they do. Focusing on the political life of the shab (or popular classes) in Cairo, Diane Singerman shows how men and women develop creative and effective strategies to accomplish shared goals, despite the dominant forces ranged against them. Starting at the household level in one densely populated neighborhood of Cairo, Singerman examines communal patterns of allocation, distribution, and decisionmaking. Combining the institutional focus of political science with the sensitivities of anthropology she uncovers a system of informal networks that constitutes another layer of collective institutions within Egypt and allows excluded groups to pursue their interests. She documents the extensive presence of the informal economy and argues that these financial resources further enhance the informal and invisible organizational grid of the shab. Avenues of Participation traces this informal system from its grounding in the family to its influence on the larger polity.
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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
Political anthropology of a high order. Singerman shows how family ties empower people....Her picture of women black marketeers is especially revealing. As a social scientist, she is determined to challenge the stereotype of the passive urban poor, and she makes a largely successful case for seeing politics in other than elite terms.
American Journal of Sociology
[An] outstanding piece of scholarship that forces us to rethink and broaden our understanding of political participation to better appreciate the alternative institutions that marginalized communities create in order to satisfy their political and economic needs. . . . [Singerman's] vivid account is one of only a handful of studies that provide a detailed picture of the daily political and economic experiences of lower-class communities in the Middle East.
— Guilain Denoeux
Middle East Journal
Singerman's work cuts across a variety of disciplines—comparative political science, anthropology and sociology, women's studies, and economics—and all are handled deftly. . . . She is a superb writer and has produced an enjoyable, informative, and challenging piece of scholarship.
— Denis J. Sullivan
American Journal of Sociology - Guilain Denoeux
[An] outstanding piece of scholarship that forces us to rethink and broaden our understanding of political participation to better appreciate the alternative institutions that marginalized communities create in order to satisfy their political and economic needs. . . . [Singerman's] vivid account is one of only a handful of studies that provide a detailed picture of the daily political and economic experiences of lower-class communities in the Middle East.
Middle East Journal - Denis J. Sullivan
Singerman's work cuts across a variety of disciplines—comparative political science, anthropology and sociology, women's studies, and economics—and all are handled deftly. . . . She is a superb writer and has produced an enjoyable, informative, and challenging piece of scholarship.
From the Publisher
"Political anthropology of a high order. Singerman shows how family ties empower people....Her picture of women black marketeers is especially revealing. As a social scientist, she is determined to challenge the stereotype of the passive urban poor, and she makes a largely successful case for seeing politics in other than elite terms."—Foreign Affairs

"[An] outstanding piece of scholarship that forces us to rethink and broaden our understanding of political participation to better appreciate the alternative institutions that marginalized communities create in order to satisfy their political and economic needs. . . . [Singerman's] vivid account is one of only a handful of studies that provide a detailed picture of the daily political and economic experiences of lower-class communities in the Middle East."—Guilain Denoeux, American Journal of Sociology

"Singerman's work cuts across a variety of disciplines—comparative political science, anthropology and sociology, women's studies, and economics—and all are handled deftly. . . . She is a superb writer and has produced an enjoyable, informative, and challenging piece of scholarship."—Denis J. Sullivan, Middle East Journal

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Foreword
Acknowledgments
A Note on Transliteration
Introduction 3
Egypt and Popular Political Expression 5
The Context and Approach of the Study 17
Ch. 1 The Family, Politics, and the Familial Ethos 41
The Public/Private Dichotomy and Political Participation 44
Patrimonialism, the Family, and Participation in a Middle Eastern Context 45
The Familial Ethos 49
Conclusion: An Ethos beyond the Household 71
Ch. 2 Reproducing the Family 74
Choosing a Mate: "Shababiik, shababiik, id-dunya kullaha shababiik" 77
Marriage Protocol, or the Rules of Engagement 85
Sexuality and the Transgression of Public Norms 92
The Cost of Marriage: An Economic Nightmare 109
Raising the Capital to Marry 121
Conclusions: Marriage, the Economy, and the State 126
Ch. 3 Networks: The Political Lifeline of Community 132
Earning a Living 138
Development: Education Networks 160
The Bureaucracy and the State 164
Ch. 4 Informality: Politics and Economics in Tandem 173
Informal and Formal Economic Activity in a Shabi Community 179
Family Enterprises 199
Informality Meets the State 205
The Shab and Informality: Wages and Wealth 231
Informality: The Economic and Political Consequences for the Nation 238
Ch. 5 Politics as Distribution 244
Private Voluntary Organizations: A Mediated Distribution Point 246
Elite Politics, the State, and the Shab 255
Conclusions 269
Notes 273
Bibliography 315
Index 331
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