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Chapter 3 An Appearance of Order
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Chapter 3
An Appearance of Order

In the winter of 1867–68 Ali Mubarak, an accomplished Egyptian administrator, teacher and engineer, travelled to Paris on financial business for the Egyptian government, and to visit the Exposition Universelle. He stayed several weeks, as he later described in some detail, studying the new Parisian systems of education and of sewerage. He examined the buildings, the books, and the curricula of the new schools, and walked with other visitors along the enormous tunnels of the sewage system built beneath the boulevards of Haussmann's new city. On his return to Egypt he was appointed Minister of Schools and Minister of Public Works, and over the following decade he laid out and began building the modern city of Cairo and the modern system of education.[1]

Laying out the streets of a city and planning institutions of learning did not come together only by accident, by some chance in the career of an exceptional individual. Ali Pasha Mubarak's career indicated the concerns of his age. Streets and schools were built as the expression and achievement of an intellectual orderliness, a social tidiness, a physical cleanliness, that was coming to be considered the country's fundamental political requirement. The new order of the army and the model village was to be extended to include the city and the civilian. In this process came into being the politics of the modern state. The nature of the new politics, as they emerged in the five decades between the 1860s and the First World War, will be the subject of this and the following chapter. In this chapter, beginning with the rebuilding of the city and then concentrating on the introduction of schooling, I want to explore the links between the methods of ordering that I have called enframing and a new kind of political discipline among the population.

In a work of fiction written during this period, intended for people's instruction and improvement in unfilled moments of their day (such moments were now visible, and in need of being filled), Ali Mubarak illustrated the connection between spatial order and personal discipline through a comparison of the condition of life in Egypt and France. The protagonists in his story journeyed by steamer from Egypt to France. Arriving in Marseilles, the visitors remarked on the enormous quantity and variety of


ships, merchandise, traffic, and production, and on how the people of Marseilles went about their business with 'industry, initiative, and earnestness about making wealth'. The distinctive character of life in the French city lay in the order of its streets and the discipline of those who moved through them. What astounded the travellers most was 'seeing an enormous crowd of humanity and not hearing them yell and shout as is the custom with Egyptians ... Rather, each person was occupied with his own business, proceeding on his way, taking care not to harm or interfere with anyone else. Despite the great variety of activity and occupation and the enormous number of people involved, there was not a single fight or argument. It was as though they were gathering together for prayer, or to listen to some announcement from a ruler. Nothing was heard from them except the words necessary to do business.'[2]

Similarly when they continued on to Paris, their first reaction to the city was 'astonishment at how well it is organised, at the number of people there, the breadth of its streets and their order, the vigour of its commerce and the elegance and tidiness of its commercial establishments'. Inside the shops, they were 'amazed at how well they were organised', and how business was done without having to talk and argue and raise voices. They also visited the public gardens of Paris and Versailles, where even the play of children was clean, orderly, and quiet. The calm, the diligence, and the order of life on the street and in public places were the very characteristics that indicated and made possible the material prosperity of the French and the progress of their society. All this bore no resemblance to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, where 'hardly an hour can pass without people being interfered with and disturbed, with the amount of shouting and yelling and cursing and foul language'.[3]

From the noise and confusion in the streets of Cairo, Mubarak's protagonist moved directly to the root of the problem: discipline and education. 'The Egyptian considered the origin and cause of this great difference, and found that it stemmed from elementary rules of discipline and methods of educating the young, to which everything else goes back.'

Doing What Now Had to be Done

If an event should be chosen that marks the appearance of the new politics of the modern state, it would be in the winter of 1867–68 when Ali Mubarak, on his return from Paris, acquired a palace on Darb al-Gamamiz in the heart of Cairo and established there his office and his schools.[4] 'I rolled up my sleeves', he wrote, 'and set about doing what had to be done ... After having some necessary alterations carried out, I set up the Bureau of Schools in the reception rooms, and placed the schools themselves in each of the palace


wings. I also brought to the palace the Bureau of Endowments and the Bureau of Public Works, where I could easily attend to them.'[5]

He had brought to the palace the new government Preparatory and Engineering schools, and opened there the same year a School of Administration and Languages and a School of Surveying and Accounting, and the following year a School of Ancient Egyptian Language and a School of Drawing, adding later on an infirmary, a Royal Library, an amphitheatre for public lectures and exams, and a school for the training of teachers. In the same location he had put the Bureau of Public Works, the office which would be responsible for the rebuilding of the city, and the Bureau of Endowments (Diwan al-awqaf ), the office which supervised much of the property and income that would be destroyed to build new streets through the city, or requisitioned to build village and provincial schools.

There followed the greatest period of construction and demolition in the city since the growth of Mamluk Cairo in the 1300s.[6] A new structure was laid out between the northern and western edges of the existing city and its new gateway from Alexandria and Europe, the railway station, with plots made available to anyone who would construct a building with a European façade. 'The transformation of the city of Cairo from an aesthetic point of view', as it was described by one of those responsible, required 'the filling in and levelling of the waste land around the city, the opening up of main streets and new arteries, the creation of squares and open places, the planting of trees, the surfacing of roads, the construction of drains, and regular cleaning and watering'. This spatial ordering in turn required 'the removal of certain human agglomerations from the interior', for as the map overleaf shows the new streets did not leave the existing city intact.[7] From Khedive Isma'il's new palace of Abdin, close to the palace on Darb al-Gamamiz housing the new schools, the Boulevard Muhammad Ali was ploughed diagonally through the old city. It was two kilometres long, and in its path stood almost four hundred large houses, three hundred smaller ones, and a great number of mosques, mills, bakeries and bath-houses.[8] These were all destroyed, or cut in half and left standing like dolls' houses with no outer wall, so that when the road was completed the scene resembled 'a city that has recently been shelled - houses in all stages of delapidation, though still inhabited, giving most odd views of domestic interiors, frowning down upon you'.[9]

If such measures seem heartless, it must be remembered that, like the educational policies I will be examining later on, they conformed with prevailing medical and political theory. The disorder and narrowness of the streets that open boulevards eliminated were considered a principal cause of physical disease and of crime, just as the indiscipline and lack of schooling among their inhabitants was the principal cause of the country's backward-


6 Plan of Cairo, showing the new streets.


ness. The medical argument was made according to the miasmic theory of contagion, which in nineteenth-century Europe had temporarily superseded the rival germ theory as an explanation of the transmission of diseases.[10] Contagion would not be checked, it was now thought, by quarantine and confinement, practices common throughout the Mediterranean world including Egypt, against the tyranny of which English liberals had in recent decades campaigned. What was required was the elimination from the city of sites from which the foul vapours of disease were given off, such as 'cemeteries ... as well as sewers, cess pools and all places of rottenness and decomposition', and the demolition of houses to allow the unobstructed passage of air and light. The new theories made this an urgent matter. Indeed there were questions raised, considering the number of buried human corpses alone, whether the ground all over Egypt had not become so saturated with putrifying material that it was unable further to decompose.

With such urgent medical and political reasons in favour of open towns, there happened to coincide economic and financial arguments. Open, well-lit streets were a benefit not only to health but to commerce, for they embodied the principles of visibility and inspection whose commercial usefulness was demonstrated at world exhibitions. The dark 'interior' of the city, cleared of its human agglomerations, would become easier to police, and artificial lighting would enable the new shops and places of entertainment to do business into the night. Financially, the need for cleanliness in the streets reflected the newly envisaged relationship between the city as a place of consumption and the countryside as a place of production. By organising a system of sewage disposal, it was said, the government would realise the value per capita of human excrement. 'The towns must restore to the countryside in the form of fertiliser the equivalent of what they receive in the form of items of consumption.' In these exchanges of a new consumer economy, everything became the representation of a certain value; even the odours of the city were drawn into the economy of meanings. 'Every rotten smell in the house, in the street, in the town', it was said, 'signifies ... a loss of fertillser in the countryside.'[11]

The Delta town of Tanta, which gained a sizeable European colony during Isma'il's reign, was one of several provincial centres outside Cairo to undergo these new methods of 'organisation'. 'Its lanes were narrow and disorganised', explained the Under-Secretary of the new Bureau of Schools, in a textbook he wrote on Egyptian geography. 'They were damp and putrid because the air could not move and the sun could not enter.' What was required was tanzim , a word often translated as 'modernisation' for this period, though it means something more like 'organisation' or 'regulation'. In context it could mean simply 'the laying out of streets', and it became the name of the Department of Public Works. Tanta, along with most other


large towns of Egypt in this period, received two officials appointed from Cairo, a Planning Engineer and a Medical Officer, under whose orders houses were pulled down to cut open the blind alleys that previously lead into courtyards, and great thoroughfares across the town were opened up.[12]

The 'disorder' of Cairo and other cities had suddenly become visible. The urban space in which Egyptians moved had become a political matter, material to be 'organised' by the construction of great thoroughfares radiating out from the geographical and political centre. At the same moment Egyptians themselves, as they moved through this space, became similarly material, their minds and bodies thought to need discipline and training. The space, the minds, and the bodies all materialised at the same moment, in a common economy of order and discipline.

The connection between urban order and individual discipline was indicated in the unusual location of the new schools. They were placed at the centre of the urban space, from where the new boulevards were to radiate outwards. It was a novel idea for the nineteenth century that places of government instruction should stand in the centre of the city. When the first military school had been set up by Muhammad Ali more than fifty years before, in 1816, it had been housed in the Citadel, which stood on the southeastern edge of the city. Other places of military training had been established later, in Bulaq, in Qasr al-Aini, at the Nile Barrage, in Giza, in Khanka, on the island of Rawda, and in Abbasiyya. None of them had been built in Cairo itself, but always (like the new barracks) in outlying villages or suburbs. By the time Muhammad Ali's grandson Isma'il came to power in 1863, however, his grandfather's military schools had mostly fallen into disuse and been shut down.[13]

Within a week of assuming power, Isma'il had reestablished a Bureau of Schools. Ibrahim Adham, the government inspector already noted for his fondness for coloured-glass spectacles, who had been responsible from 1839 to 1849 for the administration of the government's schools, factories, arsenals and workshops, was now made responsible for the schools alone. He proceeded to set up government primary and preparatory schools in Cairo and Alexandria.[14] In October 1867, Ali Mubarak was appointed Under-Secretary of the Bureau. His instructions were 'to supervise the existing government and the popular schools in Cairo, in other major towns and in the provinces, to attend to their improvement and their organisation, and to see that they are properly managed'.[15] He then made his trip to visit the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and returned to set up his office and his schools in the palace in the new centre of the city.

The placing of the schools at the centre of the city can mark the moment when a new politics of the modern state appeared. From this centre was to extend the surface of a field that had no previous existence. Education was


to be set up as an autonomous practice, spread over 'the entire surface of society', with a distinct purpose. The new schooling introduced earlier in the century under Muhammad Ali had been intended to produce an army and the particular technicians associated with it; schooling was now to produce the individual citizen. To understand what was envisaged in a system of civilian schooling, two important innovations from the 1840s can be picked out as an indication, the 'model school' (al-maktab al-unmudhaji ) in Cairo and the Egyptian school in Paris. I will begin with the model school, which had been set up by Ibrahim Adham in 1843 in a large room attached to the military primary school.[16] Its purpose had been to introduce into Egypt the so-called Lancaster method of schooling.

Implicit Obedience

The Lancaster or 'mutual improvement' schools had been developed for the instruction of the industrial classes in England. A group of twenty Egyptians had been sent to study at Joseph Lancaster's Central School in London in the 1820s, and in 1843 Adham himself had recently returned from England, where he had been sent to study the organisation of factories. The Lancaster school, like the factory, consisted of a single large room, which contained rows of benches with individually numbered places for up to a thousand pupils. Each bench constituted a 'class' of eight or ten pupils, and was under the supervision of a senior pupil who monitored the behaviour and work of the other students. At the command of a whistle or bell each class moved from its bench to one of the boards that were placed on the walls around the room, and stood on a semi-circular line marked on the floor around it. The boards were numbered in a sequence of ascending difficulty, and on each

7 Lancaster school: monitors and students at their reading stations.


one there were written letters, numbers, or words, which another student monitor was allocated to teach.

The classes were taught 'silently to measure their steps, when going round the school in close order, to prevent what else would often occur from numbers, treading on each other's heels, or pushing about. In this case, measuring their step commands attention to one object, and prevents disorderly conduct. It is not required that the measure should be exact, or be a regular step ; but, that each scholar should attempt to walk at nearly a regular distance from the one who precedes him.'[17] The monitor of each class was also responsible for 'the cleanliness, order, and improvement of every boy in it'.[18] All instruction was received standing, which was said to be better for the health, except at certain periods when they returned to their benches and sat down for the writing exercise. The exercise followed numbered instructions (to be memorised by the monitors), with all pupils writing the same words or the same letter, starting the word or letter at the same moment and finishing it at the same moment.

... 9: Hands on knees. This command is conveyed by one ring on the bell; 10: hands on table, head up; 11: clean slates: everyone cleans his slate with a little saliva, or better still with a piece of rag; 12: show slates; 13: monitors, inspect. They inspect the slates of their assistants and then those of their own bench. The assistants inspect those of their benches and everyone returns to his own place.[19]

Such instructions were to be few in number and often repeated. This ensured that authority, instead of being concentrated in the personal command of a master, would be 'systematically diffused over the whole school, and capable of delegation, without diminution, to any agent.'[20]

To assist in the diffusion of authority, the commands were issued by means of a semaphore telegraph. 'The telegraph placed at the head of the school, consists of six squares, each square about four inches by three. These squares play on pivots, in the sides of a wooden frame. On each side is a letter as F. front , on seeing which, the whole school faces the master; or, S. S. as show slates , on which the whole school shows slates. The attention of the school is called to this by means of a very small bell affixed , which does not require loud ringing but has a sharp clear sound.' The telegraphic signals trained the pupil in 'implicit obedience', which created a 'system of order'. The visual effect of this order, from the viewpoint of the individual master at the head of the school, was considerable. For example:

It is wished to know that the hands of every boy in school are clean, a command is given 'show fingers', each pupil at once holds up his hands and spreads open his fingers. The monitors pass between the desks of their respective classes, and each inspects his own class. An examination as to cleanliness is thus effected, over the whole school in five minutes, and the practice of inspection, anticipated by the pupil,


promotes habitual cleanliness. In a school of three hundred pupils, three thousand fingers and thumbs will be exhibited in a minute, and the effect on the eye is as singular, as the examination is beneficial.[21]

As well as student monitors who instructed and supervised, there were monitors who promoted students up or down in the order of seating, monitors who inspected the slates, monitors who supplied and sharpened pens, monitors who checked on students who were not in their position, and a monitor-general who checked on the monitors.[22]

The school was a system of perfect discipline. Students were kept constantly moving from task to task, with every motion and every space disciplined and put to use. Each segment of time was regulated, so that at every moment a student was either receiving instruction, repeating it, supervising, or checking. It was a technique in which the exact position and precise task of each individual at every moment was coordinated, to perform together as a machine. Authority and obedience were diffused, without diminution, throughout the school, implicating every individual in a system of order. The model school was a model of the perfect society.

In 1847, after four years, the model school in Cairo had fifty-nine pupils. It is not known how faithfully it was modelled on the English original, although the Lancaster school was actively promoted abroad by its English proponents as a model, whose geometric pattern and mathematical functioning could be exactly reproduced abroad, as it was, in almost every part of the world.[23] The Cairo school was under the supervision of Abd al-Rahman Rushdi, who had studied the Lancaster method in England and was to serve later as minister for schools. The experiment, anyhow, was deemed a success, and in 1847 an order was obtained for the establishing of a school on the Lancaster model in each of the eight sections of the city of Cairo.[24] These schools were not for creating soldiers, but for creating disciplined members of the community. They were to be called makatib al-milla (national schools) to distinguish them from the military establishments, and it was planned to build them throughout the country.

The School in Paris

In the same period, from 1844 to 1849, the Egyptian government set up a school in Paris, organised and run by the French Ministry of War, which introduced a similar regime of order and obedience. The Egyptian students sent to study there included Isma'il Pasha, the future ruler of the country, Ali Mubarak, his future minister, and a significant proportion of the future educators and administrators who from the 1860s were to attempt to construct a new system of disciplinary power in Egypt.[25] In October 1844 the


Ministry of War had assisted the responsible Egyptian officials in drawing up regulations for the new school. They are as follows.[26]

Regulations of the Egyptian School in Paris, October 1844

1 Students are to respect the Instructors, Assistants, and Staff, obey their orders, and greet them with the military salute.

2 Students will be called to assemble every morning, fifteen minutes after the reveille. A list of names of those absent will be given to the Director. If all are present, this will be noted.

3 The hour of the roll call will depend upon the time of year. Any student who fails to answer at the roll call will be detained in school on one of the days of leave. On the second occasion he will be fined.

4 No book or drawing is to be brought into the school without special permission.

5 The playing of backgammon, cards, or games of chance is forbidden.

6 No student may enter any class except the one he is assigned to.

7 All students are to wear their particular uniform, both inside and outside the school, and are to pay careful attention to their dress.

8 Students may not employ servants to perform errands outside the school, unless permission is obtained.

9 Packages and letters delivered to the school for any student must be inspected by the porter.

10 It is forbidden to bring into the school any chemical substances, foodstuffs, or wine or other alcoholic beverages.

11 Students are allowed out of the school on Sundays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. on Sundays and from 3.30 p.m. on Thursdays. They must return by 10 p.m., unless they have obtained permission to return later from the Director of the School. No student may go out at any other time or return late without permission. Students are to sign their names in the register at the porter's office, and indicate the time at which they return. Those with special permission to go out must also sign their names when leaving the school.

12 It is forbidden for any student to introduce strangers into school.

13 No student may take rooms in the town, for any purpose whatsoever.

14 The punishment of students will be by detention in school on days of leave, for one or more days, or by fines.

15 The first penalty entails that the student be made to study, from 10 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. on Sunday or from 7 p.m. until 9.15 p.m. on Thursday.

16 Requests to the Director of the School must be handed to the sergeants.

17 Students are to maintain silence in the classrooms. Their place in each classroom will be permanently assigned, by the drawing of lots.

18 A student is not permitted to change his place in any of the classrooms, without permission. This order is to be kept in all classes.

19 During lessons the students are to refrain from play of any kind, are to make no noise, and are to abstain from anything that may cause them to be distracted from their lessons.


20 Students may not leave the classroom to go to their rooms, or to walk in the corridors or the garden.

21 No student may leave the classroom until the lesson has ended and the signal for the break has been given.

22 All written work must be signed by the students, and collected up by the master after they have completed it ...

As in the Lancaster model school, learning is a process of discipline, inspection and continuous obedience. Like the army, the school offers unprecedented techniques by which students can be 'fixed' in their place and their lives meticulously regulated. Every hour of the day has been marked out, divided into separate activities whose boundaries are given not in the unfolding of the activity but in the abstract dimensions of hours and minutes. The students' life in Paris had the following daily structure:[27]



: Reveille


: Study


: Breakfast


: Military Science or Fortification


: Lunch


: Roll Call


: Mathematics, Geography, History


: French


: Gunnery


: Dinner


: Military Exercises


: Lights Out

Between the reveille that opens it and the lights extinguished to mark its end, 'time' is written out upon the exterior surface of the day. The device of the timetable separates out the dimension of time to form a framework, in which the activities of studying, eating, and exercising are to be contained.

By a process which can be considered analogous, individuals are being deliberately distributed among pre-arranged positions, allocated in each classroom to a desk that is 'permanently assigned'. 'A student is not permitted to change his place in any of the classrooms without permission; this order is to be followed in all classes.' Similarly, each student is assigned to a military rank - corporal, sergeant, or sergeant-major.[28] There is a meticulous concern for the discipline of rank and place. It is not the particular place that matters - desks can be assigned by drawing lots - but the act of positioning and remaining in place.

Punishment is a more overt expression of this concern with order. Reprimanding and penalising wrongful behaviour was nothing new, and indeed the penalties here are less violent than those of the earlier military


schools mentioned in chapter 2. Students are now deprived of leave or confined to their rooms rather than beaten with the leather whip. In this way punishment is made an aspect of discipline, of that continuous technique of control whose method is to position, to divide, and to set limits.[29]

As with the Lancaster school, an essential aspect of this discipline is the act of inspection. At 5.15 every morning students are woken up to stand and be inspected. Their written work is submitted to a similar inspection, and their work and behaviour is under constant surveillance. In the classroom they are to stay attentive, and any act that distracts attention will be penalised. Even to talk, at any point except when authorised, is forbidden. The effect is a rigorous discipline of movement, sound and gesture. These separate acts of supervision and discipline combine to position and articulate each individual. He is endowed with an individuality that exists only in the act of obedience, or by virtue of position in a sequence. A person's name, which he is constantly required to repeat, becomes something new - a label attached to an object, a liability attached to a piece of written work, or a moment in the sequence of the roll call.

In 1849 both the monitorial schools in Cairo and the school in Paris came to an end, after Abbas Pasha came to power and abolished virtually all government instruction.[30] When Sa'id Pasha succeeded Abbas in 1854, Ibrahim Adham put forward the proposal for 'national schools' organised on the Lancaster model once again, this time in association with Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, another of the European-trained school administrators.[31] The plan was again rejected, but not completely. Permission was given for Adham to organise elementary instruction among the Egyptians now being recruited for the first time, alongside members of the Turkish elite and Europeans, as officers and NCOs of the army. To carry out this project Adham enlisted the services of Ali Mubarak, who had returned from studying at the school in Paris to work as an administrator and military engineer. Mubarak proceeded to teach the soldiers at the barracks and camps, using a procedure modelled on the Lancaster method of instruction. He began with just a few pupils, and then used them as monitors to instruct larger groups. Having no rows of benches or classroom walls, he improvised by marking out the letters or numbers which the monitors were to teach with a stick in the sand, or with charcoal on the paved floor.[32]

A Power Without External Manifestation

The precise methods of inspection, coordination and control of the model school in Cairo and the Egyptian school in Paris indicate the intentions and style of the practices that were to come into being in the 1860s, once Isma'il came to power and Ibrahim Adham, Ali Mubarak and Rifa'a al-Tahtawi


were once again given office. The order and discipline of modern schooling were to be the hallmark and the method of a new form of political power; a power required, as I suggested earlier, by the system of private landowner-ship and production for the European market that was becoming established in this period. The requirement, as one of the new class of large landowners expressed it, was to introduce into Egypt 'the European element, the productive element'. The productive element, it was said, included 'commercial companies, incentives, financial facilities', and the introduction among the population of 'new ideas and new processes'. What were required, in other words, were the new methods and social relations of an agricultural life organised to produce for the market. These in turn required a new technique of political power, a method of working upon the population individually and continuously to make them into efficient parts of the productive process. 'In the introduction of these new ideas and new processes, authority alone has no power. Power resides in persuasion. One cannot take one-by-one four or five million individuals to convince them that one such thing is better than another.'[33] It was to elaborate a method of power which would work upon an entire population 'one-by-one' that the representatives of this landowning class — whose most powerful member was Isma'il himself — began to advocate and finance the establishing of the new system of schooling.

We, the masters, should seize on our subjects in their early youth. We shall change the tastes and habits of the whole people. We shall build up again from the very foundations and teach the people to live a frugal, innocent, busy life after the pattern of our laws.[34]

The words are from Fénelon's Télémaque , which was translated into Arabic by Rifa`a al-Tahtawi, and published in 1867.[35] To change the tastes and habits of an entire people, politics had to seize upon the individual, and by the new means of education make him or her into a modern political subject - frugal, innocent and, above all, busy.

One of the first steps taken was the summoning in 1866 of a Consultative Chamber of Deputies, whose seventy-five members were chosen from among the leading landowners and provincial officials of the country. The Chamber was intended to help extend political power over the rural population, by agreeing to the imposition of increasingly harsh levels of taxation on a 'frugal' peasantry, for example, and increasing the effectiveness of taxation and military recruitment by approving a census that was to cover 'every hamlet, encampment and village in Egypt'.[36] The Chamber was itself conceived as part of a system of power whose method would be that of discipline and instruction. 'Our parliament', it was explained, 'is a school, by means of which the government, more advanced than the population, instructs and civilises that population.'[37] The education of the population


was taken up immediately by the Assembly, not only as a metaphor to convey the idea of the political process, but as its major practical method.

In the first session, a deputy who was close to the government proposed the setting up of primary schools in the provinces.[38] It was announced at the same time that the Khedive Isma'il had endowed to just such a project the entire income of the new agricultural land in Wadi Tumilat, the valley created across the Eastern desert by the construction of the Isma'iliyya Canal, which carried sweet water to the new towns on the Suez Canal. With this incentive, a group of landowners and local officials from the towns and villages of Lower Egypt formed together to raise among themselves and fellow landowners similar donations. There was an enormous and highly publicised response. In the ensuing months over two thousand of the medium and large landowners of the Delta donated funds towards the founding of schools according to the government plan.[39]

At the same time, a comprehensive plan for institutions of elementary instruction throughout the country was drawn up, which became the Law of 10th Rajab 1284 (7th November 1868). The Organic Law, as it was called, determined the subjects to be taught in every school and those who were to teach in them, those who were to administer, the books to be used, the timetable of instruction, the clothes that students were to wear, the plan of buildings, the layout of the classroom and its furniture, the location of each school, the source of its funds, the schedule of its examinations, the registration of students, and the physical handicaps for which they should be excluded.[40] Learning, in every detail, had very suddenly become the state's active and extensive concern, a field of organisation, a major realm in which what is called 'the state' was to exist and build relations of power.

At the beginning of this chapter I marked the birth of this new field of order by mentioning the new Bureau of Schools that was set up in the palace at the centre of the country's reconstructed capital city. With the building of schools there are several other respects in which a new order was inscribed. First, the distribution of the schools themselves was made the deliberate expression of an administrative hierarchy, the hierarchical order of the new nation-state. The Commission on the Organisation of Knowledge (Qumisyun tanzim al-ma'arif) laid down in December 1881 that the elementary schools were to be classed in three ranks according to their required size, corresponding to the size of the village or town. Every village or group of hamlets with a population of 2,000 to 5,000 was to have a third-class elementary school (one teacher and forty pupils), every town or group of villages with a population of 5,000 to 10,000 was to have a second-class elementary school (two teachers and two classes), every large town was to have a first-class elementary school, every provincial capital was to have a secondary school, with one school per 10,000 inhabitants, and in the very


centre of Cairo, in the new Bureau, were located the highest schools.[41] The schools were precisely distributed by size and rank, as expressions of the correct ordering of the separate elements - individuals, villages, towns, and provincial and national capitals - in terms of which a nation-state could be conceived as an integrated and bounded totality. Thus it was claimed that the separate schoolrooms distributed all over the country, regulated by the 'Organic Law', would 'form a whole by their coordination'.[42]

Second, schooling was divided into three stages, primary, preparatory, and final. By specifying the separate ranks of people eligible for each successive stage of schooling, a social order was represented in the exact form of a pyramid of social classes. Primary instruction was to be for all children, boys and girls, rich and poor alike. 'They require it as they require bread and water.' The curriculum was to include learning to read and write through the study of the Quran, and the rudiments of arithmetic and grammar.[43] It was also to include training in 'swimming, and horsemanship, and throwing and handling the javelin and sword and other implements of war, to train children in the methods of protecting and fighting for the nation. These things are of the general good, and children must be trained in them while young.'[44] Preparatory or secondary education was of a 'higher rank' than primary, and was to be correspondingly less wide-spread among the people. Unfortunately they had little interest in it, Rifa`a al-Tahtawi wrote, because of the hardship involved. 'It is the duty of organised government to encourage and exhort the people in this kind of schooling, for it civilises the community.' Higher education, on the other hand, was for the political elite (arbab al-styasat wa-l-ri' asat ). Each person who sought to study at the higher level had to be someone of wealth and status, so that devoting his time to his studies did no damage to the country. It would be harmful for someone who had an occupation from which he earned a living, and from which others benefitted, to leave that occupation and enter the realm of higher learning.[45]

Third, examinations provided a particular practice in which schooling presented the new hierarchy of the nation-state. They were events of enormous social, and structural, significance. The Law of 1867 laid down that students in the local schools were to be examined, at the end of every month by their teachers, at the end of every term by the superintendent of the school, government inspectors, and other officials, and at the end of every year by the governor of the district, the local judges, and other government advisors and officials. The same structure was laid down at each of the higher levels of schooling, with officials of the appropriate rank brought in to preside at each ascending stage of the examination process. The year-end exams were to be followed with a prize-giving ceremony, according to the law, and a procession of the students in their uniforms. At the schools of the


provincial capitals, military music was to be played. At the top of the pyramid, in the government schools on Darb al-Gamamiz, annual examinations were held in the large amphitheatre within the palace, attended by the Khedive and the highest officials and dignitaries of the state.[46]

In the schools themselves a similar sort of order was to be inscribed, as it seemed, as a structure upon the surface, written down in regulations and constructed in desks and benches and classroom walls. In all the schools the layout and furnishing of the classroom was to be identical: rows of benches without backs, a dais and blackboard of the correct size, a chair for the teacher.[47] The separate buildings of a school were to be placed in geometrical relation to one another, to achieve the same 'order'. The government primary school in Cairo was laid out, and described, as follows: around a large courtyard stand four main buildings. The largest, at the rear, is for the classrooms; the one on the right, for kitchens and refectories; the one on the left, for the infirmary and the wash-house; the remaining one, which faces onto the street, contains the dormitories. This geometric pattern was copied in the other primary schools built in the following years at Alexandria, Benha, and Asyut.[48]

The elementary schools, of which about thirty had already been built all over the country by 1875, expressed a similar geometry. The Commission on the Organisation of Knowledge published twelve separate sets of building plans. The correct plan was to be chosen for each school, according to whether it was of the first, second, or third rank, and to whether it was on a site adjoined by other buildings on four sides, on three, on two or one, or on none at all (this to ensure the correct passage of air and light). These plans were used, for example, to construct new schools at Giza (1880), at Zaqaziq, Shibin al-Kum, and Damanhur (1883), at Suez and Madinat Fayyum (1888) and at Isna (1900), all of which were built according to plan number four (an elementary school of the first rank, on a site with no adjoining buildings).[49]

The interior space for eating and sleeping in each building was planned and laid out with the same regularity. 'In the refectory there are seventeen tables, with thirty places to each table. In the dormitories the beds are placed at intervals of one to every 21 cubic metres of respirable air.' The entire establishment, it was said, should have 'a pleasing appearance of order'.[50]

What characterises all these descriptions is a common attempt to construct order, which has come into being as an end in itself. As with the new streets of the city, physical space - even respirable air - has become a surface and volume that can be divided up and marked out into places where individuals are positioned.[51] Such acts create order in the abstract, not only by marking divisions and determining where things are to be put, but by distributing according to intervals that are identically spaced and geometrically aligned. The regularity of the interval (every 21 cubic metres) and the


precision of the angle (the four sides of a square) create a framework which appears prior to, and therefore separate from, the objects actually distributed.

As with the architecture of the model village or the layout and timetable of the model school, this is the essence of what is now going to be seen as 'structure': that it is separate from the 'content' distributed within it. Creating the impression of a structure separate from its contents - constituting reality in terms of this separation - is precisely the effect of acts of regulated distribution. The act of distributing and fixing in place, repeated again and again in a sequence of exact and equal intervals, creates the impression that the intervals themselves are what exist, rather than the practices of distribution. The repetitive ordering creates the impression that the gaps between things are an abstraction, something that would exist whether or not the particular things were put there. This structural effect of something pre-existent, non-particular and non-material is what is experienced as 'order', or, the same thing (since it seems to exist apart from the material realisation), as the 'conceptual'.

The gaps are further made to stand forward by causing the objects they are to 'separate' to appear as similar to one another as possible - by clothing them, for example, in identical dress ('the shirt has a single row of buttons, and is dark blue; the trousers are of bright red; the badges, in gilded leather, are attached to the front of the collar; on the head is worn the tarbush; the different schools are distinguished only by the colour of the collar or the lapel, and by the colour of the trouser stripe').[52] In the uniformity of appearance, the equidistant interval, and the geometric angle, the acts of distribution, if practised quietly, unceasingly, and uniformly, almost disappear from view. As the techniques of distribution create an appearance of structure, the techniques themselves are to become increasingly invisible.

The Inspector-General of Schools, appointed in March 1873 to organise a national system of school inspection, compared these techniques of order and surveillance to the uniform and invisible force of a magnetic fluid. 'The pedagogic influence of the master on the pupil', he wrote, 'is like a magnetic fluid which transmits itself in a manner that is slow, hidden, and permanent ... without external manifestation. At the moment when you attempt to surprise it, it may be absent, because it does not like to be under surveillance. Remove yourself and it will return, reactivated once more; the current will be reestablished.'[53] The appearance of order means the disappearance of power. Power is to operate more and more in a manner that is slow, uninterrupted and without external manifestation.

As the process of control becomes a question of achieving the continuous appearance of structure or order, there suddenly appears an equally continuous threat: the problem of 'disorder'. Disorder now emerges as a natural


and inevitable liability, requiring a constant vigilance. Disorder though, like order, is a notion produced in the distributive practices themselves. It is only now that it appears as an ever present threat.


Disorder seems about to break out, or already to prevail, whenever the old uncoordinated, undistributed style of learning was now described, especially in descriptions of the famous teaching-mosque of al-Azhar. 'What is astonishing at al-Azhar is the crowd that throngs in its halls', we are told by the Inspector-General. 'A thousand students of every age, of every colour ... scattered into groups, the diversity of costumes.'[54] One writer complains of the 'chaos' and the absence of nizam (order, discipline), noting that the teachers do nothing but sit at the pillars of the mosque giving lessons, without bothering to record the presence or absence of students or their progress through different lessons.[55] Another writer describes 'the brouhaha' as 'the students, lacking all direction, move haphazardly from professor to professor, passing from one text to another, understanding nothing of passages

8 The interior of a corridor and view of the courtyard of the al-Azhar mosque, 
from F. Bonfils & Cie, Catalogue des vues photographiques de l'Orient. The 
Bonfils catalogue was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1889.


on which the masters comment in a language about which they have no clue, and ending with everything confounded and confused'.[56] 'What is lacking more than all is height, and space. One suffocates beneath the endless ceiling.' But worse than this is 'the noise and the perpetual movement'.[57] Some are sleeping on their mats, we are told, some eat, some study, some engage in argument, vendors move haphazardly among them selling water, bread, and fruit. Organisation is absent, and anarchy hovers at the gate. A bout of horseplay breaks suddenly into a fight, and a master must step in swiftly. He separates the combatants and administers two or three blows with the whip, 'to reestablish order'.[58]

Just as the model schools offered the model of a modern system of power, this image of the old style of teaching was also the image of existing Egyptian society. Movement is haphazard and undisciplined, space is cramped, communication is uncertain, the presence of authority is intermittent, individuals are all unalike and uncoordinated, disorder threatens to break in at any point, and order can be reestablished only by the swift and physical demonstration of power.

For the Europeans involved in introducing into Egypt an organised system of education, and some of the Egyptians, this evident disorder of traditional learning presents a paradox. There must have been some method at work that enabled people to cope with the absence of any organisational framework. The Inspector-General of Schools offered an explanation. 'The apparent noise and the disorder', he wrote, '... result from the pedagogical method.' This he characterised as a technique of individual instruction employed even in the teaching of large groups. The instructor, he explained, 'proceeds always by individual instruction, that is to say he never teaches to an entire class, but always to a single pupil. Each child in turn goes up to the master, sits down beside him, recites what he has learnt, shows what he has written, receives a new task and returns to take his place among his fellow students.[59]

Despite the problem of disorder, the weakness of authority, the absence of regulation and system, and the confusion of noises, of colours, of ages, of clothing and of activities, nevertheless the pedagogical style manages, it is said, to maintain some sort of order. Its form is the individual exchange between master and student. This relation is seen as both the limitation and the strength of the social order. It is the limit, because every instruction, correction, encouragement and admonition must be given separately and repeated for every pupil. Compared with the systematic pedagogy that will replace it, where the master can instruct, correct, encourage and admonish all individuals simultaneously and continuously, this is enormously inefficient.[60] Yet given this limitation, the individual relation is also its strength, because somehow it keeps an otherwise inevitable disorder at bay.


Chaos is kept out, and the European observers attribute this, in the absence of a system of discipline, to the operation of a series of discrete, one-to-one relations, in which the master confronts, instructs, and disciplines each student individually. This kind of order must be continually reestablished, and so appears precarious, negotiated, and continually in flux. Such order was, of course, precarious; but our image of it is required and given value by the wider set of assumptions in which it stands, that of order versus disorder. It is an image that fails to break with, to historicise, our contemporary notion of order. Its notion of disorder is a condition created conceptually only in the mirror of order. It is visible and thinkable only as the absence of the geometric lines, the equal intervals, the regulated movements of a system of order, of nizam . And this order was a recent innovation. 'Disorder' is not a condition that precedes thought, a threat fundamental to the human condition, against which thought itself is ever busy organising the conceptual order. Disorder goes with order, as the polarity and boundary of a particular sort of world. Disorder, moreover, though it appears to stand as a pair with order, as the equal and opposite condition, is not of the same value. It is the unequal end of the polarity, the negative element. It is the void that places order as the centre, existing only to allow 'order' its conceptual possibility.

Life within the teaching mosque of al-Azhar required no walls to divide classrooms, no desks, no ordered ranks, no uniforms, no timetable, and no posted curriculum. In short, as with the city, there was no order in the sense we expect, as a framework, code or structure that stands apart. To see, once again, the peculiar historical strangeness of the new kind of order, I want to look briefly at the ways in which an institution like the teaching mosque of al-Azhar may have worked.

The Order of the Text

The great teaching mosques of Cairo and of other large towns in Egypt, like those elsewhere in the Islamic world, were centres not of education, or even learning per se , but of the art and authority of writing. They had been established in earlier centuries by those who held political power, as endeavours to secure and extend through those learned in law, language and philosophy the authoritative support of its word. The study and interpretation of this writing was a sina`a , a profession or craft. To stress the professional, political and economic aspects of this craft, I will refer to it as 'the law', though the word should be understood to include a large body of linguistic, philosophical and theological scholarship.[61] Al-Azhar, the name of a particular mosque but also the general name for a group of mosques and


lodgings gathered in the older part of Cairo, was not a school for law, but the oldest and most important centre in the Islamic world of law as a profession. As with other crafts and professions, one of the continuous and pervasive activities of those involved was the learning and teaching of its skills. Learning was a part of the practice of law, and it was from this practice, rather than from any set of codes or structures, that it took its sequence and its form.

The process of learning always began with the study of the Quran, the original text of the law (indeed the only original text, the only text which could not be read in some sense as the interpretation or modification of an earlier writing). The student then moved on to the hadith , the collections of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad which interpret and extend Quranic doctrine, and then on again to the major commentaries upon the Quran and to the other subjects dealing with its interpretation, such as the art of its recitation and the study of variant readings. From there one moved on to the studies related to the reading of the hadith, such as the biographies of the transmitters, then to the principles of theology (usul al-din ), then to the principles of legal interpretation (usul al-fiqh ), then to the divergent interpretations among the different schools of law, and so on according to a sequence given in the reading and interpretation of the law, which was the nature of the art being studied. Though the choice of secondary texts might vary, there was no need of a syllabus or curriculum. The order of learning disclosed itself, by the logic of interpretation, in the order of the texts.

In the same way there was no need for a daily timetable. The ordinary sequence of the day's lessons mirrored on a smaller scale the same textual order. The first lessons would be given immediately after dawn prayers, by those teaching the Quran. These were followed by lessons in hadith , followed by Quranic interpretation, and so on, working outwards eventually to the study of mysticism, left to the period after evening prayer. The order of teaching, in other words, even the order of the day, was inseparable from the necessary relation between texts and commentaries that constituted legal practice. Practice was not something organised within the indifferent order of the timetable; it unfolded in its meaningful sequence.

The sequence of learning was also the sequence of scholarship. A scholar at al-Azhar, we are told, would prepare a legal opinion, a lesson, or a disputation, by placing all the books which discussed the question he wanted to elucidate on a low table in front of him, arranging them in sequences radiating from the middle: 'at the centre is the original text (matn ), then the commentary (sharh ) on this text, then the gloss on the commentary (hashiya ) and finally the explication of the gloss (taktir )'.[62] The books often repeated this arrangement themselves, as the picture on p. 147 illustrates: a text might be accompanied by a commentary written between the lines, or even inserted between the words themselves, with a further gloss upon the com-


mentary written in the margin, surrounding the text on all sides, just as the circles of commentaries on the table surrounded the central text.

There were other respects in which the patterns of learning were repeated in the forms of legal practice. The lessons in which the works of law were read took place with the participants seated in a circle, each participant's place in relation to the teacher determined by his or her command of the text being studied. Again, the process of mastering the art was what gave learning its order. The circle of participants, in fact, was the common form of all the aspects of the legal profession carried on within the mosque. It was variously used to hear cases and issue opinions, to dispute questions of law, to deliver addresses, and to dictate and discuss the texts.[63] The activity of learning, in other words, was simply one aspect within the daily practice of the law. It took its form from those practices, and was not set apart by a separate code, location, time, or body of instructors.

On one hand, this style of learning was remarkably flexible and free of coercion, when compared to the modern disciplinary schooling typified by the Lancaster system. Learning occurred as a relationship that, as in every craft, might be found between any individuals at almost any point. Beginners learned from one another, according to their differing aptitudes, as much as from those who were masters; and even masters continued to learn from those who possessed other skills, who had mastered other texts. The method was one of argumentation and dispute, not lecturing. The individual was to be deferent where appropriate, but never passive. Whatever punishments may have been inflicted on unruly students, no system of discipline ever kept individuals under continuous supervision or surveillance, or obliged them to study with one particular teacher, or to remain in place, or to continue at a certain task for a certain period.[64] Whatever their weaknesses, these methods made the teaching mosque of al-Azhar the oldest continuing centre of scholarship and law anywhere in the world.

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to overstate the neatness or effectiveness of the kind of order I have just described. It shared the limitations and the weaknesses that I mentioned earlier, as endemic to the kind of political authority of which it was a part. In the nineteenth century it was breaking down in the same way. Law was the profession in which important Egyptian families, from every region of the country, acquired and protected positions of rural and urban authority. After a number of years at al-Azhar or one of its sister institutions, the sons of the leading families might return to their districts and take up positions of local authority, serving as leaders of the community, preachers, interpreters and judges. Ali Pasha Mubarak, for example, the educator and urban planner with whose work I introduced this chapter, was the son of such an official. His father's family had held the office of local judge and prayer leader in the village of Birnbal al-Jadida for


at least three generations. By the mid nineteenth century this system of political authority was under enormous stress, as the misfortunes of Ali Mubarak's own family indicated. The important posts in provincial Egypt were still reserved for the increasingly unpopular Turkish-speaking elite (a situation that was about to change in the provinces, just as Ali Mubarak's career marked the emergence of a native, Arabic-speaking bureaucracy in Cairo), oppressive levels of taxation had forced men like Ali Mubarak's father to flee from their villages, the income of the teaching mosques had been drastically cut by the government's appropriation of their endowments, and the precincts of al-Azhar had become an overcrowded sanctuary for those escaping the military draft. The techniques of order and authority exemplified in the learning of al-Azhar could not cope with the political and economic transformations taking place.[65]

Village Learning

In the account I have just given of the way learning in al-Azhar acquired its order, an order without recourse to regulation or structure, certain features of learning in general have emerged. These can be summarised as follows. First, learning occurred within the practice of the particular profession or craft to be learnt, and was not separated out as 'schooling'. The law was one such profession, centred upon the mosque; other professions and crafts were studied in their own locations, in similar ways. Second, within the profession, learning was not a relationship that separated practitioners into two distinct groups, students and teachers. The relation of teacher and student could be found between almost any two or more members of the occupation group (though of course the more senior practitioners might distinguish themselves from the rest in several ways, including the way in which they gave instruction). Third, present at almost every point in the practices of a craft, learning did not require overt acts of organisation, but found its sequence in the logic of the practices themselves.

Education, as an isolated process in which children acquire a set of instructions and self-discipline, was born in Egypt in the nineteenth century. Before that, there was no distinct location or institution where such a process was carried on, no body of adults for whom it was a profession, and no word for it in the language. To refer to centres of scholarship such as al-Azhar as places of 'traditional education' is a misnomer, a misapprehending of the kinds of practice in which the life of the community, up until the last third of the nineteenth century, was lived. It is to take a dominant practice of the late nineteenth and twentieth century, and project it back onto a world in which it did not exist, resulting in unhelpful observations about the limited nature of its 'curriculum' and the absence there of order and


discipline. The introduction of classrooms, desks and discipline was not the reform of so-called traditional schooling. The innovations appeared suddenly, when the new techniques of order made suddenly obvious the need for such 'structure'. Thus the setting up of learning as a process separate from life itself corresponded, for reasons I will examine further at the end of this chapter, to the apparent separation of the world into things in themselves on the one hand, and on the other their meaning or structure.

The view I have just offered of traditional learning requires a re-explanation not only of the teaching mosque in the city but also, finally, of the so-called Quran school, or kuttab , of the village. Like the teaching mosque, the kuttab was ordered around the meaning and the power of words, in their need to be interpreted and properly handled. Not just mosques and kuttabs , in fact, but a good part of the communal life of town, village, and city, of marketplace and courtyard, of family and of work, was dependent upon differing practices in relation to the authority of writing. The kuttab in the village and the teaching mosque in the city represent two places of such practice. Their differing treatment of the same text and words, furthermore, was an aspect of the political relation between the authority of the city and the popular life of the village.

For the life of ordinary Egyptians, the correctly written or articulated word (the word of the Quran, in most cases) was a critical resource. Life, as I have suggested, was negotiated against, or in terms of, those not always knowable forces which if correctly attended to were propitious and sustaining, but if mishandled were the source of barrenness and misfortune. The most common idiom for conceiving of the person's vulnerability to such forces was the idiom of exposure. The risks of exposure were expressed in particular in terms of the power of the human gaze, the eye. (Europeans understood this, in their own terms, as the 'evil eye', though in Arabic it was just al-ayn , the eye.) The proper respect for the risks and potential associated with the human gaze established a set of practices for dealing with vulnerability towards strangers and those more powerful, and with the vulnerability of the weak and the very young. The risks of the gaze also established particular procedures and explanations in cases of death, childbirth and ill health.[66] To deal with these latent forces and the threat of exposure demanded various strategies of propitiation, protection and concealment. A particular resource on which ordinary people could call for such purposes was the power of the word. Michael Gilsenan's anthropological study of religion in the modern Arab world describes how 'the conception and communal experience of the Word in prayer, in study, in talismans, in chanting of the sacred verses, in zikr (Sufi rituals of remembrance), in the telling of beads, in curing, in social etiquette, and in a hundred other ways are at the root of being a Muslim. The directness of the relationship with Allah


through the Word and its intensely abstract, intensely concrete force is extremely difficult to evoke, let alone analyze, for members of societies dominated by print and the notion of words standing for things.'[67]

The employment of the word in these and other ways was the particular craft and occupation of the fiqi , the local healer, Quran reciter and holy-man.[68] One thing the fiqi did was to teach children in the village the art that was the source of his craft, the correct recitation and writing of the words of the Quran. For this reason he is often described as the village school teacher. His role in the village was not to 'educate' however, but to provide at proper moments the written and spoken word of the Quran. He was required to write charms or cures, and to recite the correct words in the correct manner at marriages and funerals, in homes, and at the tomb of the local saint, in the seeking of a husband and on the conclusion of a business deal.[69]

Like the practitioners of other crafts he would give instruction in his art, an art that had a common prominence and value because of the critical importance of the sacred word in communal life. This instruction would take place in a mosque or a room, at the tomb of a local saint or in larger towns in a building erected at the public fountain, the sabil (there was an important connection between the power of words and the propitious use of water). Such a place might be referred to as the kuttab , though the word conveys not only the sense of a place but of a practice, the practices associated with writing and in particular with the Quran. To explain the fiqi as a school teacher is clearly inappropriate, and leads inevitably once again to observations of the sort that the curriculum of the 'school' was restricted to the memorising of a single text, the Quran. Schooling did not exist before the last third of the nineteenth century, and it was not the purpose of any distinct individual or institution to give organised instruction. The fiqi 's role was formed within an idiom of the power of words and the problems of vulnerability and powerlessness. It was this very idiom of powerlessness that the system of education was to oppose, offering instead, as we have seen, an idiom of indiscipline and disorder.

Instructions for Use

Learning was now to be separated from the practices in which it was entwined, assigning it a distinct place, the school, and a distinct period of life, that of youth. 'L'instruction publique' (al-tarbiya al-umumiyya in Arabic) was the novel phrase for this practice. It referred, it was said, to 'that which is studied by boys and girls in schools and colleges and in all establishments where a specific number of people are brought together for instruction'.[70] Schooling was to be an autonomous field, defined not by its subject or method, but as an activity that took place in a specialised location, among


a specific group of people of a particular age. The organisation (tartib ) of instruction, wrote Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, required that a room be taken in the market or the main street of the town and set aside for the purpose of teaching. Children were not to be taught in places that served other functions, particularly not in the mosque.[71] This coincided with the administrative separation, in April 1868, of what were to be called the 'civil schools' from the military.[72] The new civilian education was to be entirely separate from the military project, just as it was to be separate from the life and the learning of the mosque; its purpose was the discipline and improvement of every individual.

The word education (tarbiya ) in this sense was itself a new usage. In Rifa'a al-Tahtawi's well-known work Takhlis al-ibriz , published in 1834, the first modern Arabic account of Europe, the term tarbiya does not occur, except once or twice in the word's general sense of 'to breed' or 'to produce', as in a description of the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris: 'In the Polytechnique mathematics and physics are taught, to produce engineers (li-tarbiyat muhandisin ).' Nor is there any single word in its place, referring to the distinctive social practice of education.[73] The themes of the book's description of learning, like its description of Europe in general, are order and organisation. Its opening pages are addressed to those who criticised Muhammad Ali for building a military order using experts from Europe: 'Look at the workshops,' he wrote, 'the factories, the schools and the like, and look at the discipline (tartib ) of the soldiers of the army ... the order.'[74] The subject of the book is this same discipline and order as it was found in France, in all its aspects.

The section of the work which discusses learning in Paris in some detail begins with the title 'The progress in fields of knowledge, skills, and manufacture among the Parisians, and their organisation'. The editor of the 1973 edition of Tahtawi's works entitled the same section 'Knowledge, skills, and education among the French', substituting the word education (tarbiya ) for the similar-sounding word organisation (tartib ) and omitting the word manufacture which no longer fits.[75] In making the substitution the editor had repeated a transformation in vocabulary and in thinking that actually occurred in nineteenth-century Egypt. The word tartib , meaning such things as 'arrangement (into ranks)', 'organisation', 'discipline', 'rule', 'regulation' (hence even 'government'), was replaced in the field of learning where it had come to be universally used by the like-sounding word tarbiya . Until perhaps the last third of the nineteenth century tarbiya had meant simply "to breed' or 'to cultivate', referring, as in English, to anything that should be helped to grow - the cotton crop, cattle or the morals of children. It came to mean 'education', the new field of practices developed in the last third of the century.[76]


As schooling was introduced to achieve this discipline, those who were responsible for its organisation and inspection wrote books and manuals in which the new practices were discussed. In 1872, for example, Tahtawi published his principal work on education, al-Murshid al-amin li-l-banat wa-l-banin , a guidebook for boys and girls, in which he explained the need for the new educational practices in terms of human nature. 'Man emerges from the mother's stomach knowing nothing and capable of nothing, except by education (al-tarbiya wa-l-ta 'lim ).' Upon the process of instruction depended his ability to sustain himself, to use language, and to think. For these, Tahtawi explained, 'he needs to be equipped by endless drilling and practice and exercise over a length of time'.[77] The language suggests immediately an extension of the techniques originally introduced in the military. And it was towards the very possibility of the country's military and political strength that the language led back. The abilities formed by the endless drilling and exercise of education enabled people to harmonise and associate with one another, in order to create a community. By developing this capacity to the fullest extent, the community gained its strength and acquired the ability to dominate others.[78]

Thus Tahtawi now distinguished between two senses of the term education (tarbiya ). The first was what he called 'the tarbiya of the human species', using the word in its older sense as the cultivation, breeding or production of some particular thing. In this case it referred to 'the tarbiya of the human being as such, that is, making the body and the mental faculties grow'. The second sense was 'the tarbiya of individual human beings, which means the tarbiya of communities and nations'. It was the second meaning that was new and that came to count. The official government textbook on education published in 1903 began with the clear statement that 'the tarbiya of things does not mean making them increase in size'. Rather, tarbiya referred to the discipline and exercise of individuals, which would coordinate them to perform as a unit. 'It means putting them in readiness and strengthening them to perform their function as required, in the most efficient manner. There is no way to educate and strengthen something, except by training and drilling it in the performance of its function, until it can accomplish it with smoothness, speed, and precision.' The author of this textbook was Abd al-Aziz Jawish, who had spent three years training at the Borough Road School in London, the school set up by Joseph Lancaster to train teachers for his monitorial schools. He went on to become Inspector-General at the Ministry of Education, and was later a founder of the National Party and the editor of its newspaper al-Liwa '.[79]

The case of Jarwish can remind us that the new discipline of education was to be implemented not only through organised schooling. Schooling was only a part of the wider political process of discipline and instruction.


Husayn al-Marsafi, the senior professor at the new government teacher training college, set up in the same period to produce instructors for the village schools, explained that there were three parts to the meaning of education - three institutions in which this new hold upon the individual would be developed: the school, the political assembly, and the press.[80] Marsafi's more famous colleague at the training college, the great reformist thinker Muhammad Abduh, developed a similar view of tarbiya . Education, for him, expressed the necessary political role of the intellectual, who would use as his particular 'school' the new organs of the press.[81] Having discussed already both the government schools and the political assembly, I want to look briefly at the importance of the new printing presses.

In 1868 an organisation called the Society of Knowledge for the Publication of Useful Books (Jam'iyyat al-ma'arif li-nashr al-kutub al-nafi'a) was founded in Cairo by Muhammad Arif Pasha, one of the graduates of the Egyptian school in Paris. It was perhaps modelled on Lord Brougham's Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, the organisation set up to teach the values of self-discipline and industriousness to the working class of England. Muhammad Arif was a high-ranking government official, as were many of the other men involved in its founding. It was established by general subscription, and 660 people participated as shareholders, most of them landowners or government officials.[82] As part of the same process of 'education', the government also began the publication of journals, newspapers and books.

Since the year 1828 the government had produced an official gazette, al-Waqa'i' al-Misriyya , for the announcing of decisions, decrees, appointments, public works, and other domestic events, up until the 1850s, during the reign of Sa'id, when it had ceased to appear.[83] In December 1865 it was decided to produce the gazette again, but in a new form, with a new and more careful purpose. 'Rather than announce its affairs to the world through its own officials,' an internal order stated, 'the government has decided to give the right of producing the gazette to an editor, who will publish without the government's intervention.' This decision marked an alteration in technique, not a relinquishing of control. Two government servants, Ahmad Rasikh Efendi of the Office of Foreign Affairs and Mustafa Rasmi Efendi from the retinue of the Khedive, were appointed to the new Office of the Gazette, and instructions were issued to the Minister of Finance that 'they are to continue to be considered government servants and be given the salary and benefits of government employees, and are to receive pay from no other source.'[84]

The change in technique corresponded to a change in the nature of what was published. The gazette was no longer to be simply a written announcement of the government's orders and instructions, precisely as government


itself was no longer conceived as the mere issuing and enforcement of orders. Information and instructions were to become the method of politics, something 'useful' which the political process was to publish and make public. There was an entire realm of thought, of meaning to be made public (while the authors of this public knowledge were to become more hidden, to disguise themselves).

9 The ex libris of King Farouk.


Following the reestablishment of the gazette, the government became more and more involved in the publishing of journals. In 1867 a weekly journal named Wadi al-Nil , the first Egyptian journal that was not an official organ, was published under the editorship of Abdullah Efendi Abu Sa'ud. Abu Sa'ud, however, was an official of the Bureau of Schools, and the journal was actually established and funded by the government.[85] Three years later, in April 1870, another journal appeared, this time issued publicly by the Bureau of Schools, entitled Rawdat al-madaris . This monthly journal was devoted to the spread of modern subjects of knowledge, and was printed and distributed free to all students in the new government schools. It was under the supervision of Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, all of whose subsequent writings were first published in its pages.

Working from the Inside Out

I will be returning in a later chapter to this question of the transformation in the organisation, nature and distribution of writing, a transformation whose beginnings I have just tried to sketch. Like schooling, the written was now to appear as something apart from life itself, a separate realm of instruction, representation and truth. In the scholarly world of al-Azhar, whatever the importance attached to the written word, writing had never formed its own realm of representation, meaning, or culture; there had been no fundamental division between 'text' and 'real world'. It is in this context, as we will see, that the continued rejection of the technology of printing by al-Azhar scholars of the nineteenth century is to be understood. For the time being, however, I want simply to conclude this chapter by suggesting a connection between the new realm of instruction - of knowledge as a code of instructions to be taught - and the new methods of creating order as a structure. I am going to argue that the new methods of enframing, containing and disciplining which I have been examining in this and the previous chapter not only made possible the modern process of schooling; they created the very need for it. To illustrate this, I will return to the structured world of the model village.

Model villages continued to be built in Egypt throughout the nineteenth century, especially on the new kind of large private estate known as the izba and on the 'company estates' under the control of European commercial interests.[86] In the first part of the twentieth century, Henry Ayrout, a Jesuit working in rural Egypt, noted that those who were obliged to live in these organised villages generally considered them a 'geometric jail'. He explained this by saying that the peasant,

being of a child-like disposition, cannot be presented a model house without being


taught, in a kindly way, the 'directions' which go with it, the way of using the new device, and how it is better than his old house. This pedagogy is more important than the material realization.

The model village, it seems, introduced a distinction between the materiality of the buildings and the set of 'directions for use' required to live in them. This was something new; such a distinction was unthinkable in the Kabyle village described by Bourdieu, which I suggested could be taken to typify the ways of building, dwelling and thinking that the colonial order sought to replace. As we saw, there was nothing in the building or the life of the Kabyle village that could be artificially distinguished as the mere 'material realization', as we say, of a separate set of directions, meanings or plans. The very building of the house was not the realisation of a plan but the re-enactment, in such processes as the joining of a 'female' pillar to the 'male' roofbeam, of the union that formed the household.[87] The house was never a mere device, and did not present its inhabitants, like a modern device, with separate instructions for use. Nothing was set apart in distinction to its mere materiality as the realm of the symbolic, of the cultural code as anthropologists sometimes say, or the directions to be learnt.

The new order of the model village introduced this notion of the code or plan, and this notion of materiality. Like the classrooms examined in this chapter, its geometric construction presented the world as something simply two-fold: a world of what we call 'things', which exist by appearing as the material realisation of a separate realm of intentions or instructions. This mysterious technique, the new order, was the origin of the sudden possibility and need for organised education. Suddenly, apart from such 'things', it appeared as though there was a cultural code, a set of instructions, which every child, and every 'peasant, being of child-like disposition' as it now seemed, needed to be taught. 'No model village', Father Ayrout continued, 'can be realized or kept presentable unless the architectural enterprise is linked with teaching, education and instruction; in short one should work with the fellahin. The reconstruction of the Egyptian village demands the re-education of its inhabitants, and first of all of women. We must work from the inside out.'[88]

I began this chapter with the story of Ali Mubarak returning from Paris and proceeding to build a new capital city and a new system of education. In the intervening pages I have been exploring this connection between the street and the school, between new kinds of spatial framework and the means of coordinating and controlling those who move within them. These means of coordination were something particular and physical, offering what Michel Foucault has called a microphysical power; a power that worked by reordering material space in exact dimensions and acquiring a


continuous bodily hold upon its subjects. Yet at the same time, I have tried to show, this power was something meta-physical. It worked by creating an appearance of order, an appearance of structure as some sort of separate, non-material realm. The creation of this metaphysical realm was what made the education of the individual suddenly imperative - just as the micro-physical methods were what made such education possible. Power now sought to work not only upon the exterior of the body but also 'from the inside out' - by shaping the individual mind.


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