Space is central to this book. A growing number of studies focus on the production of space and how it shapes and is being shaped by power relationships,
Most of the studies that have been trying to present a complex theorization of the relationship between space and time tend to focus more on the production of space (mainly by dominant groups) and pay less attention to how spaces are actively used and reconstructed by social actors who are not the original makers of these spaces. Thus, the focus has been on colonial attempts to redefine local spaces (Mitchell 1988; Rabinow 1989), governmental endeavors to restructure urban space (Massey 1994), and efforts to discipline bodies and souls through spatial orders (Foucault 1979). The following chapters aim to direct attention to the fact that spatial forms and arrangements are never totalized and that urban space is always a contested domain. I focus on the “spatial practices of the ordinary practitioners of the city” (de Certeau 1988: 93) to show that the dominant image of the city is contested and struggled over. As active users, men and women reshape the city through their daily practices. The analysis shows how power relationships are embedded and manifested in the struggle over space and how various groups strategically use and manipulate space to evade attempts to discipline them and regulate their relationships and activities. As will be discussed in the following chapters, the relocation project examined here is but one form of this contestation. Each chapter discusses space as the locus of a struggle that is central to the construction of collectivities and the representation of the self in everyday life. Family members, genders, and religious groups struggle over space and negotiate how it should be used and represented.
The relocation project examined here was part of Sadat's attempts to modernize Cairo and its residents. Chapter 1 provides a brief historical background of modern Cairo and situates the project within the broader context of Sadat's open-door policy (infitah). It presents a textual analysis of the state public discourse used to justify the project and examines how this discourse used modern images and appealed to global demands and models to legitimize the relocation project. Modernity was to be objectified in visible forms that could be gazed at by visitors and upperclass Egyptians. I pay particular attention to how the relocated group was represented in the state public discourse and how government officials defined “modern” housing. The new apartments, local newspapers
Chapter 3 investigates how relocation, together with other global forces and discourses, is shaping identities in al-Zawiya al-Hamra. It pays particular attention to how the state discourse, which stigmatized the group before and during relocation, has informed the views of other residents and shaped how the newcomers have been situated in al-Zawiya. The housing project brought different groups from Cairo to live in the same location, attend the same coffeehouses, and shop at the same markets. This mixing of people and the growing globalization of culture are introducing new identifications and uncertainties that have to be negotiated in people's daily life. In chapter 4, I examine how these uncertainties have been shaping social views of public spaces such as the vegetable market and the coffee shop. Such spaces, which bring members of the different groups together, are often viewed in negative terms. After exploring the shifting meanings of privacy and publicness and how these meanings are linked to gender inequalities, I focus on the coffee shop and the workplace to examine how the access of young men and women to these spaces is restricted by their families and government officials. Rather than limiting the restrictions on women's access to public spaces to the need to control their sexuality, I aim to broaden the discussion to examine how these restrictions aim to control the knowledge acquired by young men and women.
Chapter 5 shows how the mosque, unlike the negatively constructed coffee shop and the vegetable market, is perceived as a “safe” place that brings people together as a collectivity. Residents of el-masaakin and el ahali, old inhabitants and newcomers, the better offand the needy are all being brought together by Islam and the mosque. This chapter examines the relationships between Muslims and Christians, especially in light of
In addition to religious identity, men and women situate themselves in al-Zawiya through their active role in its making. Chapter 6 focuses on how locality is produced and reproduced. As a structure of feeling, a material reality, and an attachment to a situated community (Appadurai 1996), locality has to be created and recreated over time. This becomes a challenging process with the increasing flow of people, capital, and goods between Cairo and other Arab and Western cities. Focusing on male migrants in oil-producing countries, this chapter examines how young men are kept connected with their families through the flow of information, ideas, and money and through the construction of homes in Cairo. I first analyze these flows and the apartments constructed in al-Zawiya as techniques for the production of locality. Then I place them within a wider spatial and historical context to show that even when these spatial practices primarily intend to satisfy some immediate need of the family, their unintended consequences transform the project and the neighborhood at large. They play a significant role in situating the group in the new location and in objectifying to themselves and to others their active role in the making of the neighborhood. The transformative power of these practices, I argue in the conclusion, goes beyond individual units and the project itself and extends to reshape the image of Cairo that the state tries to control and beautify. Looking at newly constructed homes and mosques, I argue that the city is not merely a ready-made container for the practices of its residents but a flexible entity that is made and remade through these practices. Religion along with the new apartments inscribes the presence of the group and displays the active role of its members in the making of Cairo at large. I also examine recent global and national transformations that have been shaping the neighborhood and how these transformations privilege and challenge the role of religion in shaping identities and practices in al-Zawiya al-Hamra.