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Cairo Cosmopolitan: Politics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Middle East

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In the cities of the Arab world, while the media focus overwhelmingly on questions of religiosity and war, the future of urban modernity and political globalism is taking shape. As the Egyptian state reaches out to capture the apparent promises of neoliberalism, Cairenes struggle over and redefine their place, identity, and material welfare.

Bringing together a distinguished interdisciplinary group of scholars, this volume explores what happens when new forms of privatization meet collectivist pasts, public space is sold off to satisfy investor needs and tourist gazes, and the state plans for Egypt's future in desert cities while stigmatizing and neglecting Cairo's popular neighborhoods. These dynamics produce surprising contradictions and juxtapositions that are coming to define today's Middle East. Luxury malls owned by the military or foreign investors compete with flourishing but criminalized open-air markets; Nubian, Upper Egyptian and labor-migrant identities confront a renaissance of Arab nationalism; and new chic coffee houses, crumbling movie palaces, and resurgent working-class cultures offer radically clashing versions of public and gender sociability.

This volume launches the Cairo School of Urban Studies, committed to fusing political-economy and ethnographic methods and sensitive to ambivalence and contingency, to reveal the new contours and patterns of modern power emerging in the urban frame. Cairo shows us that divergent cosmopolitanisms--both elite and working-class--are emerging across a broad spectrum of the polity, making new claims for political space, recognition, and representation.

Contributors: Mona Abaza, Nezar AlSayyad, Paul Amar,Walter Armbrust, Vincent Battesti, Fanny Colonna, Eric Denis, Dalila ElKerdany, Yasser Elsheshtawy, Farha Ghannam, Galila El Kadi, Anouk de Koning, Petra Kuppinger, Anna Madoeuf, Catherine Miller, Nicolas Puig, Said Sadek, Omnia El Shakry, Diane Singerman, Elizabeth A. Smith, Leïla Vignal, Caroline Williams.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789774249280
  • Publisher: American University in Cairo Press, The
  • Publication date: 6/30/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane Singerman is associate professor in the Department of Government at the School of Public Affairs of American University. She is the author of Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics, and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo and co-editor of Cairo Cosmopolitan: Politics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East (AUC Press, 2006).

PAUL AMAR is assistant professor of law and society at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is co-editor of The Middle East in Braziland Police Planet.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : contesting myths, critiquing cosmopolitanism, and creating the new Cairo school of urban studies 1
1 Cairo as neo-liberal capital? : from walled city to gated communities 47
2 Cairo as capital of socialist revolution? 73
3 Cairo as regional/global economic capital? 99
4 Cairo as global/regional cultural capital? 153
5 Egyptianizing the American dream : Nasr City's shopping malls, public order, and the privatized military 193
6 Cafe Latte and Caesar salad : cosmopolitan belonging in Cairo's coffee shops 221
7 From Dubai to Cairo : competing global cities, models, and shifting centers of influence? 235
8 Keeping him connected : globalization and the production of locality in Cairo 251
9 Reconstructing Islamic Cairo : forces at work 269
10 Urban transformations : social control at al-Rifa'i Mosque and Sultan Hasan Square 295
11 Pyramids and alleys : global dynamics and local strategies in Giza 313
12 Belle-epoque Cairo : the politics of refurbishing the downtown business district 345
13 Upper Egyptian regionally based communities in Cairo : traditional or modern forms of urbanization? 375
14 Place, class, and race in the Barabra cafe : Nubians in Egyptian media 399
15 When the lights go down in Cairo : cinema as global crossroads and space of playful resistance 415
16 A round trip to Isma'iliya : Cairo's media exiles, television innovation, and provincial citizenship 445
17 Mulids of Cairo : Sufi guilds, popular celebrations, and the 'roller-coaster landscape' of the resignified city 465
18 The Giza zoo : reappropriating public spaces, reimagining urban beauty 489
19 Egypt's pop-music clashes and the 'world-crossing' destinies of Muhammad 'Ali street musicians 513
Afterword : whose Cairo? 539
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    The many facets of contemporary Cairo

    For Cairo at this time, 'cosmopolitan' does not suggest a certain definition or image as it generally does with reference to say, New York, Paris, or Dubai. With Cairo, the term/concept relates to potentials and aspirations which have come to the surface with limited, yet unprecedented political turns in recent years. 'Cosmopolitan' thus encompasses a diversified range of voices, ideas, and activism within this somewhat changed social space. 'In Cairo, 2005, a new urban-based, cosmopolitan, radical democracy agenda began to emerge, as the product of a three-year convergence trend within and between leftist, liberal, and Islamic groups, and a myriad of city and transnational advocates.' Individuals and groups organizing around communities and universities and human rights, religious, and feminist groups brought 'attention to a set of dynamics and protagonists bustling at the urban crossroads of an assertive, outward-looking Middle East.' Nineteen essays by authors associated with universities and research organizations from countries around the world report on many facets of this cosmopolitanism which has emerged in Cairo. Coffee bars, media, popular culture, economics, tourism, class, and ethnic groups are among these. Though the recent outbreak of warfare between Israel and Hezbollah is sure to have some effect on the Cairo cosmopolitanism as it is a central development of Egyptian society and experiment for other Middle Eastern countries, the essays make for not only a timely, but an incomparable view of phenomena in the Arab world which go largely unknown.

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