Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards
University of Cambridge, Department of Politics & International Relations
2019 Winner (Social Sciences)
The Role of the State in Urban Development: The Case of Urban Waterscapes in Cairo, Egypt
Dr. Wahby’s thesis on regimes of governance in urban water systems in Cairo is a masterful example of theoretically rich, methodologically sophisticated, interdisciplinary research that is solidly grounded in painstaking fieldwork. Tracing the pathways of water management in a dense urban setting, Dr. Wahby is able to map the political ecologies that emerge as Cairo’s residents, both rich and poor, navigate the layered relationships associated with access to an essential resource. She offers an innovative and insightful analysis tracing the often ad hoc construction of regimes of governance in Cairo’s sprawling water systems. Her analysis challenges both long-held assumptions about formality and informality and apolitical explanations of urban failures. While Dr. Wahby highlights both what the state does and does not do, the role of entrepreneurial elites, and that of development institutions, she also studies the various strategies that marginalized citizens develop when confronted with the limits of state capacity in the management of urban waterscapes. Her dissertation is informed and enriched by a deep understanding of, and empathy with, the people whose lives and struggles lie at the center of her research. Dr. Wahby’s work sheds crucial light on the politics of urban water as a site of negotiation, accumulation by dispossession, and protest. In the process, it compels readers to engage with critical questions about citizenship, class, and the state in the contemporary Middle East.
The dissertation was completed at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Politics and International Relations under the supervision of Professor Maha Abdelrahman.
2019 Review Committee
Steven Heydemann (chair), Smith College
Elena Aoun, Catholic University of Louvain
Sean Foley, Middle Tennessee State University
Sima Shakhsari, University of Minnesota