Migrants of Privilege: Masculinity, Foreign Capital, and Shaping National Identity in Egypt

By Annalise DeVries
Submitted to Session P4815 (Gendering Migration & Transnationalizing Gender in the Middle East & North Africa, 2017 Annual Meeting
Gender/Women's Studies; Globalization;
In 1888, Tom Dale was born in the northern Egyptian city of Mansoura, where his father, Captain Jesse Dale, had relocated six years earlier to work as an engineer on the Nile Delta. It is no coincidence that the Dales first landed in Egypt the same year that the British occupation began. Yet identifying the family as straightforward agents of empire fails to consider the economic reasons that brought them to the country and allowed them and other foreign nationals to remain for more than half a century.

The arrival of the British fleet affected markets and migration patterns alike as foreign investment grew in what appeared to be a more stable country under British control. Foreign businessmen moved into Egypt to profit from the country’s growing economy. Along with the Dales came other British, French, German, Italian, and Hungarian nationals and their families—all of whom arrived as part of private business ventures and remained in Egypt often for generations. These foreigners lived in Egypt for generations because of the extraterritorial status granted to them by a legal system that exempted them from the jurisdiction of local courts and, importantly, from local taxes. Those governing Egypt—first the British and then Egyptians—similarly disparaged of those benefitting from the system until its abolition in the late-1940s, perceiving them as undermining the authority of the state and the strength of a national economy.

Taking a historical approach, my paper asks how pathways of wealth and privilege shaped migration. In particular, it examines how the arrival and domicile of these white European men and their families became associated access and power. Their prolonged presence in Egypt subsequently shaped debates about masculinity, national identity, and the place of foreigners in society. By following the impact of the men who led several of these foreign business ventures and identifying the varied forms of resistance that rose up against them during the first half of the twentieth century, my paper asks how the details of economic and foreign policy shape larger notions of identity. And it addresses how foreign capitalists helped define notions of masculinity and frame concepts of who participated in the nation.