[P4931] Rethinking State-Society Relations in Modern Egypt

Created by Omar Foda
Monday, 11/20/17 3:30pm


The history of the Egyptian state is often narrated as a struggle between nationalist elites and imperial powers. Social forces that lie outside the framework of nationalist resistance to imperialism have been granted little agency in the development of the Egyptian state. This framework overlooks the power that the inhabitants of Egypt had in shaping their government. This panel challenges the nationalism-imperialism binary that has dominated modern Egyptian historiography by constructing new narratives about the relationship between Egyptian state and society across space and time. The four papers look at state-society interactions across four eras of Egyptian history: colonial Egypt (1881-1923), semi-colonial Egypt (1923-1953), Nasser's Egypt (1952-1970); and Sadat's Egypt (1970-1981).

The first paper examines how an individual, Muhammad 'Abduh, worked to change education in Egypt. It examines his dealings with the government and its schools as a student, a reformer, and a leader, and his relationship with conservative Azharites and the Khedive of Egypt. The focus of the panel then shifts to the relationship between workers and the state during World War I, examining the effect of government policies on workers in Alexandria between 1914 and 1921. It argues that the removal of wartime controls over the movement of bodies and goods through Alexandria, which had opened the door for a worker-driven informal market, made life more precarious for workers after the war. The panel then moves from the urban to the rural with a paper on the history of the agricultural cooperative movements in the semi-colonial and Nasser eras. It argues that these coops functioned as the nexus of international governmental organizations, the Egyptian government, and the agrarian population. Finally, the panel moves up the social ladder and presents a paper on the evolving relationship between multinational beverage companies and the Egyptian government in Nasser and Sadat's Egypt. It argues that the recalcitrance of companies made the nationalization of the private sector in 1961 a slow absorption rather than a sharp rupture.

Through these four papers, the panel shows that the history of the Egyptian government was shaped not only by state officials and imperial forces, but also by peasants, workers, businessmen, and local religious leaders.


American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE)





Heather J. Sharkey

(University of Pennsylvania)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Relli I. Shechter

(Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Relli Shechter is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Middle East Studies in Ben-Gurion University, Israel. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His research interests include histories of consumption and enterprises during past and present...
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Omar Foda

(Independent Scholar)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Kyle Anderson

(SUNY Old Westbury)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Nefertiti Takla

(Manhattan College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ibrahim Gemeah

(Cornell University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;