Cairo CosmopolitanPolitics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East

Cairo CosmopolitanPolitics, Culture, and Urban Space in the New Globalized Middle East

Diane Singerman and Paul Amar

Print publication date: 2011

ISBN: 9789774162893

Publisher: American University in Cairo Press


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 an 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 chic new 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.

Table of Contents


The City Cosmopolitan

3 Cairo as Regional/Global Economic Capital?

Leïla Vignal and Eric Denis

Consumer and Investor Geographies

7 From Dubai to Cairo

Yasser Elsheshtawy

8 Keeping Him Connected

Farha Ghannam

Heritage and Touristic Globalization

9 Reconstructing Islamic Cairo

Caroline Williams

10 Urban TransformationsSocial

Yasser Elsheshtawy

11 Pyramids and Alleys

Petra Kuppinger

12 Belle-éPoque Cairo

Galila El Kadi and Dalia ElKerdany

Cairo Subcultures and Media Contestation

Celebratory Spaces and Vernacular World-Crossing

17: Mulids of Cairo


18 The Giza Zoo

Vincent Battesti


Whose Cairo?