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Chapter 6 The Philosophy of the Thing
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Chapter 6
The Philosophy of the Thing

Marshal Lyautey was the colonial governor of French-occupied Morocco during the early part of the twentieth century. Near the end of his period in power, on the occasion of the opening of the Casablanca-Rabat Standard Gauge Railway, Lyautey led a group of French engineers and journalists on a tour of Rabat, the newly built colonial capital. The writer André Maurois was among the guests and he recorded the Marshal's words, words which can introduce the conclusions I want to draw in this final chapter.

'I shall explain to you the philosophy of the thing', Lyautey began, as they got off the train at Rabat and entered the new capital. 'The buildings as a whole form a fan. At the centre of the fan, in the mounting - those are the Administration. Beyond them, where it broadens out, are the Government Ministries placed in the logical order. You understand? For example, here, Public Works. Next to it: Roads and Bridges, and then Mines. Next to Agriculture, Forests. This, here, is the gap for Finance. The building has not yet been built, but it will be intercalated in its logical place.' One of the guests interrupts with a question: 'Monsieur le Maréchal', he asks, 'what is this kiosk for?' To which Lyautey replies: 'That? That is for the sale of maps.'[1]

The colonial city was to be unambiguously expressive. Its layout and its buildings were to represent, in the words of the architect who built Rabat, 'the genius for order, proportion and clear reasoning' of the French nation.[2] As a system of political expression, each building in the city seemed to stand for something further. Lyautey's language in naming the buildings actually named instead this something further: 'Here, Public Works. Next to it, Roads and Bridges ... ' The method of building and naming made present to the visitor the order and the institutions of colonial authority. Later on when they entered 'Forests', there seemed to hang in the air 'the faint smell of cedar', so perfectly did the building represent the larger abstraction for which it stood. With the colonial governor as our guide, it is as though we have re-entered the world exhibition.

The similarity between the world exhibition and the new cities of the Middle East and North Africa was nothing accidental, nor did it go unnoticed by local writers. Both the exhibition and the city were built as


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political expressions, didactic in style, and both demanded the individual to be an awed and curious spectator, a tourist in need of a political guide and a map. There were many particular similarities. In the case of Istanbul, the first Middle Eastern capital to construct a large Europeanised quarter, the new city was expressly intended to be a 'model' for the rest of the Ottoman world - and its construction was supervised by Sadatlu Kamil Bey, who had acquired his experience by supervising the construction of the Ottoman exhibit at the Paris World Exhibition.[3]

The similarity between cities like Rabat and the world exhibition was not something limited to the buildings of the French colonial administration, just as what was exhibited was not simply colonial power. Inside the German Consulate at Casablanca, for example, one found 'the elements of a remarkable commercial organisation: samples of everything the Reich could produce, which the Consulate was charged with offering to Moroccan merchants; and also samples of products desired by Morocco, which were sent to manufacturers in Germany capable of producing them'. Beyond such official buildings, moreover, were the European cafés, and the retail establishments with their display of European commodities, their advertisements, their postcards of the 'Arab city' for sale. An Egyptian writer at the turn of the century complained that Europe was converting the entire East into an 'exhibition', at which every kind of European commercial product was on display.[4] Lyautey himself claimed the title 'chief commercial traveller of the protectorate', and in 1915 after seeing what had been done with the German Consulate he organised a commercial exhibition at Casablanca, and the following year a trade fair at Fez. The effect of such commercial displays on the natives, we are told, was quite extraordinary:

One of the rebel chieftains on the northern front, who was keeping up a stubborn resistance to General Henrys, heard a description of the exhibition and was seized with an irresistible curiosity. He requested a truce, and permission to go there and then resume his post of warfare against us. As strange and unacceptable as such a request appeared, it was granted. He was warmly welcomed, and after his visit he and his tribe made submission.[5]

To submit and become a citizen of such an exhibitional world was to become a consumer, of commodities and of meanings.

The Need for the Oriental

In the order of an exhibitional world, such as Lyautey's Rabat, each building and each object appeared to stand for some further meaning or value, and these meanings appeared to stand apart as a realm of order and institutions, indeed as the very realm of the political. The effect of meaning,


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however, as we might expect from the discussion of language in the previous chapter, actually arose not from each building or object in itself but out of the continuous weave of buildings and objects in which an individual item occurred. So although 'Finance' had not yet been built, it already existed as a 'logical place' in the process of intercalation. To create the effect of a realm of meaning, this differential process was to mark every space and every gap. It was to extend across the whole city, as continuous as a system of disciplinary power, to include even the 'native town' portrayed on the European postcards.

At first sight the older, indigenous quarters of the city appeared to be excluded from the new colonial order. When Lyautey's guests are shown the main street of Casablanca it seems to them unbalanced, with low, irregular houses on one side and tall buildings on the other. 'Precisely!' replies Lyautey. 'On the left you have the façade of the native town ... On the right, the façade of the European town, large properties in the French style.'[6] In Cairo during the colonial period, French experts discussing the esthétique of the modern quarters insisted on a similar exclusion of the older part of the city. There could be no reorganisation of the older part, and if anything were to be rebuilt there, they said, 'it must be Oriental'. The Arab town, it was explained,

must be preserved to show to future generations what the former city of the Caliphs was like, before there was built alongside it an important cosmopolitan colony completely separate from the native quarter ... There are two Cairo's, the modern, infinitely the more attractive one, and the old, which seems destined to prolong its agony and not to revive, being unable to struggle against progress and its inevitable consequences. One is the Cairo of artists, the other of hygienists and modernists.[7]

Thus although the new order seemed at first to exclude the Arab town, in a larger sense it included it. Colonialism did not ignore any part of the city, but divided it in two, one part becoming an exhibition and the other, in the same spirit, a museum.[8]

This 'preservation' of a picturesque 'Cairo of artists', it should be noted, was advocated after the population of the city had increased by seventy per cent in the first twenty-five years of colonial rule. More than two-thirds of this increase was caused by in-migration, including the movement of the poor from the towns and villages of the countryside to Cairo, where the rate of population growth was almost twice that of the country as a whole.[9] There was also a movement of population within the city, as the arrival of European settlers, the Europeanisation of the quarters in which they purchased property, and rising rents pushed the poor more and more into the crowded streets of the so-called 'old city'. As poverty, malnutrition and unemployment increased, this 'Oriental' quarter and other backstreets where the poor


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found room to live became rapidly more cramped and more decrepit. 'The poorer classes are being more and more crowded into "slums" of the worst type', wrote the Egyptian Gazette in an editorial of February 1902. 'No new houses are being built for their accommodation and the rising rent roll is constantly limiting the numbers that are still within their reach. Hence, in the byways and backstreets of all quarters of the town, as well as in the suburbs, there is an ever enlarging number of houses in which families are packed together in numbers and under conditions that render these places the exact counterpart of the slums of Europe and America.'[10] Under these circumstances, the argument that the native town must remain 'Oriental' did not mean preserving it against the impact of the colonial order. The Oriental was a creation of that order, and was needed for such order to exist. Both economically and in a larger sense, the colonial order depended upon at once creating and excluding its own opposite.

In a well-known passage in The Wretched of the Earth , Frantz Fanon describes the colonial world as 'a world divided into, compartments, ... a world cut in two'. His description of the division of the colonial city into the European and the native quarters can illuminate the larger sense in which the colonial depends upon its Oriental opposite.

The settler's town is a strongly-built town, all made of stone and steel. It is a brightly-lit town; the streets are covered with asphalt, and the garbage-cans swallow all the leavings, unseen, unknown and hardly thought about. The settler's feet are never visible, except perhaps in the sea; but there you're never close enough to see them. His feet are protected by strong shoes although the streets of his town are clean and even, with no holes or stores. The settler's town is a well-fed town, an easy-going town; its belly is always full of good things. The settler's town is a town of white people, of foreigners.

The town belonging to the colonised people, or at least the native town, the negro village, the medina, the reservation, is a place of ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute. They are born there, it matters little where or how; they die there, it matters not where, nor how. It is a world without spaciousness; men live there on top of each other, and their huts are built one on top of the other. The native town is a hungry town, starved of bread, of meat, of shoes, of coal, of light. The native town is a crouching village, a town on its knees, a town wallowing in the mire. It is a town of niggers and dirty arabs. The look that the native turns on the settler's town is a look of lust, a look of envy; it expresses his dreams of possession -all manner of possession: to sit at the settler's table, to sleep in the settler's bed, with his wife if possible.[11]

Fanon's writing captures the effect of colonial segregation by shifting between two vocabularies and two perspectives. Each zone is described using the language and viewpoint of those outside it. The colonisers' town is seen through the eyes of those who have suffered colonisation, those to


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whom the settler is a person never seen in bare feet. The native town is described in terms of the fears and prejudices of the colonisers, who represent those whom they exclude as the negatives of their own self-image: the natives are crowded together like animals, they are crouching or kneeling like slaves, they are without sexual restraint. Describing the process of exclusion through the eyes of those who do the excluding imitates, in the very style of writing, something of its nature. The identity of the modern city is created by what is keeps out. Its modernity is something contingent upon the exclusion of its own opposite. In order to determine itself as the place of order, reason, propriety, cleanliness, civilisation and power, it must represent outside itself what is irrational, disordered, dirty, libidinous, barbarian and cowed. The city requires this 'outside' in order to present itself, in order to constitute its singular, uncorrupted identity. It is this technique of establishing one's identity over and in terms of another that Edward Said has analysed, in a larger intellectual and political context, as 'Orientalism'. It is in this larger sense that the native town 'must be Oriental'.

To represent itself as modern, the city is dependent upon maintaining the barrier that keeps the other out. This dependence makes the outside, the Oriental, paradoxically an integral part of the modern city. The order of the city does not stop at the limit of the modern town, as Lyautey's guests were led to think. The limit is something the city maintains within itself, by means of a continuous ordering that is the source of its own ordered identity. Yet it appears as the boundary of order itself. The city, in this analysis, can be taken to exemplify a paradox at work in the maintenance of any modern political order, any modern self-identity.

A Large Definition

In the same period as the construction of divided colonial capitals, a similar separation was being made on a global scale, in the form of a cultural and historical 'break' dividing the modern West, as the place of order, reason, and power, from the outside world it was in the process of colonising and seeking to control.[12] 'As long as we know anything that deserves the name of history', declared the President of the International Congress of Orientalists held in London in 1892, 'that break exists.'[13] Professor Tylor, in his inaugural address as the President of the Congress's new Anthropological Section, explained more precisely that 'in the large definition adopted by this congress, the Oriental world reaches its extreme limits. It embraces the continent of Asia, stretching through Egypt over Africa, and into Europe over Turkey and Greece . . . '[14] The proceedings of the Congress were reported in the local periodical press in Egypt. Professor Tylor's definition


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of the Orient was reproduced in full, and an astonished Egyptian editor added his comment: 'It is as if the world were divided in two.'[15]

The world's division into two was an essential part of the larger process of its incorporation into the European world economy and the European political order. The President's audience included, among the vice-presidents of the Congress, William Gladstone, whose government had carried out the invasion and occupation of Egypt, Lord Dufferin, the first architect of Britain's colonial policy in the country, and many others -'so many practical men,' as the President warmly remarked, 'so many statesmen, and rulers, and administrators of Eastern countries'.[16] It was to these colonial administrators and policy makers that the ordering of Orientalism was addressed. 'It is simply dazzling to think of the few thousands of Englishmen ruling the millions of human beings in India, in Africa, in America, and in Australia', said the President. After thanking for their generosity the nine Indian rajas and maharajas who had put up the money for the Congress, he called for a much closer cooperation between those who studied and those who administered the Orient. While it was one thing to conquer Eastern nations, he said, 'to understand them is quite another'. Greater understanding of the Orient, he concluded, would secure 'the commercial supremacy of England' and enable 'the young rulers and administrators who are sent every year to the East' to establish 'intimate relations with the people whom they are meant to rule'.[17]

What Orientalism offered was not just a technical knowledge of Oriental languages, religious beliefs and methods of government, but a series of absolute differences according to which the Oriental could be understood as the negative of the European. These differences were not the differences within a self, which would be understood as an always-divided identity; they were the differences between a self and its opposite, the opposite that makes possible such an imaginary, undivided self. The Orient was backward, irrational, and disordered, and therefore in need of European order and authority: the domination of the West over the non-Western world depended on this manner of creating a 'West', a singular Western self-identity. Like the 'Arab town', the Orient was created as the apparent exterior of the West; as with the colonial city, what is outside is paradoxically what makes the West what it is, the excluded yet integral part of its identity and power.

Further examples of this paradoxical method of order could be mentioned. It helps to produce, for instance, the identity and authority of an 'individual' nation-state. One could think of a particular case in the modern Middle East, of a state whose existence is contingent upon maintaining a radical difference between itself and the identity of those outside it. The outside must be represented as negative and threatening, as the method of


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maintaining meaning and order within. The outside, in this sense, is an aspect of the inside. On closer inspection, moreover, the same opposition is found at work within the state, between what belongs to the outside and what belongs within. The authority and self-identity of the nation-state, like that of the city and the colonial world, are not stable, circumscribed conceptions but internal boundaries of hierarchical separation which must constantly be policed.

The paradox I have been describing is not something unique to colonial or modern politics. On the contrary, the indigenous modes of order that I tried to describe in chapter 2 illustrated the same paradox. In Pierre Bourdieu's ethnography of the Kabyle house we found oppositions such as interior/exterior and male/female that tended continually to reverse and to collapse upon themselves. So-called segmentary political systems could be explained in terms of the same paradox: the identity of a political group is not fixed as a rigid boundary containing those inside. The inside is contingent upon the designation of an exterior, and exists only in relation to particular exteriors. Political identity, therefore, never exists in the form of an absolute, interior self or community, but always as an already-divided relation of self/other. Political identity, this means to say, is no more singular or absolute than the identity of words in a system of writing. Just as the particularity of words, as we saw, is merely an effect of the differences that give rise to language, so difference gives rise to political identity and existence.[18] There are no political 'units', no atomistic, undivided selves; only relations or forces of difference, out of which identities are formed as something always self-divided and contingent.

What difference, then, does colonialism bring? What distinguishes its modern political order? Clearly the answer is not, in itself, the division into selves and others. Rather, it is the effect of seeming to exclude the other absolutely from the self, in a world divided absolutely into two. The establishing of this seemingly absolute difference is in fact an overcoming, or an overlooking, of difference. As with the example of the colonial city, by establishing a boundary that rigorously excludes the Oriental, the other, from the self, such a self acquires its apparent cleanliness, its purity, its uncorrupted and undivided identity. Identity now appears no longer self-divided, no longer contingent, no longer something arranged out of differences; it appears instead as something self-formed, and original. What is overlooked, in producing this modern effect of order, is the dependence of such identity upon what it excludes. It is forgotten that the boundary of the outside, as we have just seen, in this sense is something integral, something inside. How is such an overlooking, a forgetting, in the colonial order achieved?

A first answer might be that modern colonialism was constructed upon a


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vastly increased power of representation, a power which made possible an unprecedented fixing and policing of boundaries -an unprecedented power of portraying what lay 'outside'. During the colonial occupation of Egypt in 1882, as I mentioned in chapter 5, railways, steamships, telegraphs, newspaper correspondents, official reports, photographers, artists, and postcards from the front were all brought into coordination. The coordination made it possible to produce and relay back to Europe a continuous image of British imperial power, and an equally effective image of the disordered and backward Egyptians. In this manner, the enormous truth of colonialism - both its description and its justification - could be ordered up, put into circulation, and consumed. The truth of colonialism was congruous with the existing reality-images of the East elaborated in the popular and scholarly literature of nineteenth-century Orientalism, which I discussed in chapter 1. These images in turn referred back to the great Description de l'Egypte produced during Egypt's earlier period of European occupation, under Napoleon. By the end of the nineteenth century, as Said has shown, knowledge of the Orient had become an expertise institutionalised in the centres of colonial administration, in government ministries, and in universities. This expertise, combined with images of the Orient in popular writing, entertainment, the press, government reports, guide books, travelogues and the memoires of colonial officials, came to form a broad discursive field, a vast theatre or exhibition of the real. Within this theatrical machinery, elaborate representations of the 'objects' of colonial authority could be produced.

Before pursuing further my question about what distinguishes the order and self-identity of modern politics, it may be worth mentioning something of the penetration of these mechanisms of reality, by recalling the extent to which the truths of Orientalism were reproduced under the British in political debate within Egypt. I have already discussed, in chapter 4, how such Orientalist representations as the Egyptian character, the place of women in Islam and the power of custom and superstition were taken up in Egyptian writing and in the strategies of modern schooling as fundamental political issues. I have also mentioned the process by which the writings of some of the more popular and racist European Orientalists, such as Gustave Le Bon, made their way into Egyptian political life. The British themselves were active in encouraging and financing the spread of Orientalist ideas in Egypt. They worked in particular with writers drawn from the Christian communities of Lebanon, educated by American missionaries in Beirut, who tended to believe the only way to rival the West was to learn from it and for this and other reasons preferred European colonialism to local Turkish rule. The British secretly subsidised a daily and monthly Arabic press in Egypt, edited by such writers, and also organised the production of


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textbooks for the new government schools. The result, as I will briefly describe, was a steady penetration of Orientalist themes into the writings of the Middle East.

Our Present Backwardness

'How have we come to be regarded as part of the Orient?' asked a reader who wrote to the Egyptian journal al-Muqtataf in 1888. 'Are we not closer to Europe than to China or North Africa?' It had happened, replied the editor, because those who study us 'call themselves Orientalists'.[19] But his scepticism did not last. Five years later, when he had come to know personally some of the leading Orientalists of his day, the editor was willing to accept the Orient as a self-image. 'It is we who have placed ourselves in this position. There is one thing that unites us all in the Orient: our past greatness and our present backwardness.[20]

The manner in which this kind of Oriental self-conception was spread can be illustrated with the case of the writer Jurji Zaydan, a Lebanese Christian who lived in Egypt during the period of British occupation. Zaydan was commissioned to produce two textbooks for use in the new government secondary schools, a Modern History of Egypt (1889) and a Universal History (1890).[21] He was also the author of a five-volume History of Islamic Civilisation , based on a wide reading of pre-modern Arab historians but also, by his own account, on half a dozen European studies of Islam, the first among which was La civilisation des arabes by Gustave Le Bon. Working from these sources, Zaydan explained that 'the history of Islamic Civilisation . . . constitutes the history of the civilised world in the Middle Ages'.[22] Describing the period of the first four caliphs as the highest phase of Islamic civilisation, Zaydan represented every subsequent period, from the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates onward, as a successive stage of decline. The purpose of the work was to show for each stage the 'political' causes of decline, and its cultural consequences.

This view of history as a unilinear development in which Islam represented only a 'connecting link' in the medieval formation of an object called the West had direct political implications. Writing in the journal he had founded, al-Hilal , on the Indian uprisings of 1857 against the British, Zaydan warned Egyptians of the social disruption that faced them if they did not follow the steady course of development whose stages had been marked out by the West. The Indian revolt against colonialism had failed because India had not yet reached the historical stage in its development that made possible an independent political life. The Indian people had not acquired a knowledge of 'science and administration', or an understanding of their


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obligations to the state. Similarly, discussing the nationalist revolution of 1880–82 in Egypt, Zaydan described the country's political disorder as the consequence of a 'premature' demand for change, by a people that had not properly followed the laws of social development.[23]

Zaydan's Orientalist historiography was strongly criticised by certain intellectual groups within Egypt.[24] Yet he was subsequently invited, although a Christian, to become the first Egyptian professor of Islamic history at the new national university. Support for Zaydan was strongest from European Orientalists, many of whom he knew as acquaintances or friends.[25] One of these friends, D. S. Margoliouth, the Laudian Professor of Arabic at Oxford, translated the fourth volume of Zaydan's history of Islamic civilisation into English. It covered the period of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, on which there was no scholarly work in English yet written.[26] Thus English scholarship began to repeat, via Arabic, the ideas of men like Gustave Le Bon.

The influence of Orientalism on Egyptian learning was not confined to the writing of Egypt's political history as a part of the history of the West. All of Arabic literature was now to be organised and studied in the same way, as subject to the principle of a unilinear historical development. Already in the 1890s Hasan Tawfiq, a student of Husayn al-Marsafi, had returned from study in Germany and the influence of the Orientalist Brockelmann to produce the first History of Arabic Literature .[27] Zaydan himself turned to the subject in response to a request from the new university for a textbook to use in teaching Arabic literature. He produced the four-volume Ta'rikh adab al-lugha al-arabiyya (1910–14) which covered all aspects of intellectual life, explaining its history once again in terms of the rise and long decline of Islam.[28]

Such Orientalism reached a wide audience. Besides its propagation through the university and through the textbooks used in schools, it was widely circulated in journals like Zaydan's monthly al-Hilal . Moreover, from 1891 Zaydan was engaged in an enormous effort to spread his ideas among the newspaper-reading population, by writing the history of Islamic civilisation in a series of popular historical novels. Over the course of two decades he produced a sequence of seventeen novels encompassing the history of Islam from its beginnings to the age of the Mamluks. The novels circulated widely, for they were distributed free among the subscribers to al-Hilal, which had the widest circulation of all Middle Eastern periodicals of its time. They made the new understanding of history both popular and entertaining. Taha Husayn wrote of being captivated by these books, which would keep him away from his studies at al-Azhar whenever he read one, and attributed to them a major influence on modern Arabic letters.[29]


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The example of Zaydan's work illustrates how extensive were the historical representations out of which colonial authority was built. The absolute opposition between the order of the modern West and the backwardness and disorder of the East was not only found in Europe, but began to repeat itself in Egyptian scholarship and popular literature, just as it was replicated in colonial cities. Through its textbooks, school teachers, universities, newspapers, novels and magazines, the colonial order was able to penetrate and colonise local discourse.[30] This colonising process never fully succeeded, for there always remained regions of resistance and voices of rejection. The schools, universities and the press, moreover, like the military barracks, were always liable to become centres of some kind of revolt, turning the colonisers' methods of instruction and discipline into the means of organised opposition. (Hence the rise after the First World War of disciplinary political movements opposed to European occupation, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, whose leaders were almost invariably school teachers.) Nevertheless the power of colonialism was itself a power that sought to colonise: to penetrate locally, spreading and establishing settlements not only in the shape of cities and barracks, but in the form of classrooms, journals and works of scholarship. Colonialism -and modern politics generally - distinguished itself in this colonising power. It was able at the most local level to reproduce theatres of its order and truth.

Colonialism was distinguished by its power of representation, whose paradigm was the architecture of the colonial city but whose effects extended themselves at every level. It was distinguished not just by representation's extent, however, but by the very technique. The order and certainty of colonialism was the order of the exhibition, the certainty of representation itself. Other kinds of political order, however harmonious, tended to be dynamic and indecidable, liable to reverse and to collapse upon themselves in ways that were already understood in the writings of Ibn Khaldun. Such orders arose out of the opposing play of differences. To return to my earlier question, how did the new order appear to overcome internal difference, and set up the different as something outside? How did it seem to establish an absolute boundary, between West and non-West, between modernity and its past, between order and disorder, between' self and other? The answer, I think, lies in recalling the connections between all the different ways in which the world now seemed divided in two. Modern politics was to reside within a reality effect, a technique of certainty, order and truth, by which the world seemed absolutely divided into self and other, into things themselves and their plan, into bodies and minds, into the material and the conceptual. It is with the connections between these different divisions that I want to conclude.


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The Philosophy of the Thing

'I shall explain to you the philosophy of the thing', Lyautey's tour of Rabat had begun. It had ended at the kiosk selling maps. There was nothing before the visitors' eyes except, as in any city, a certain distributing of surfaces and spaces. Yet the regularity of their distribution and the distance maintained between the surfaces and the eye resolved this distributing into what seemed to the observer two distinct entities, one spatial and material, the other non-spatial and conceptual: on the one hand the buildings themselves, and on the other a plan. What was before them appeared divided into the 'thing' and its 'philosophy', the city and its map - as though cities and maps belonged to two different categories of being.

The division of the world into the material and the conceptual seems something obvious and commonsensical. Surely, it will still be said, the nature of the world and of personhood has always been understood in terms of some sort of distinction between the material and the immaterial. Perhaps so. To understand what was novel about the distinction between things themselves and their plan we must recall the encounter with the world exhibition. What characterised those exhibitions was not just their accuracy and extent of representation, but the absolute distinction between the representation and 'reality'. The exhibit of an Egyptian street, of the City of Paris, of the Progress of Industry, was always merely an exhibit, clearly discernable, or so it seemed, from the original street, the real city, the actual industrial progress to which it referred. This discernability, between a representation and the original object or idea to which it refers, is the principle on which exhibitions exist. It is the method by which our effect of an original 'reality' is achieved.

The same principle was at work, moreover, outside the exhibition. It was at work in museums and zoological gardens, in Orientalist congresses and libraries, in statistics and legal codes, in works of art and Alpine scenery, in the commerce of department stores and in the architecture of the city. Everywhere one went in the modern world, 'things' seemed more and more to be built, arranged, handled or consumed as 'signs of' something further. A certain street, a particular view, a book, an advertisement or a commodity appeared as a mere object or arrangement that somehow always stood, as in an exhibition, for some more original idea or experience. The arrangement of buildings seemed to express the institutions and authority of a political power, Alpine scenery became an experience of nature, articles in museums conveyed the presence of history and culture, words in Oriental languages represented an exotic past, animals in zoos an exotic present. Life was more and more to be lived as though the world itself were an exhibition, an


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exhibition of the exotic, of experience, of the original, the real. What this meant was that the absolute discernability which was the principle of exhibitions was to be the principle of the world beyond as well. As in the exhibition, the careful ordering of buildings, views, displays and experiences around the individual sought to make everything into a mere representation of something more real beyond itself, something original outside. The reality-effect of the West lay in effecting this absolute distinction between mere 'things in themselves', as the Westerner could say, and the 'real' meaning, purpose or plan for which they stood.

However, if the world outside the exhibition was in this sense not a simple original, not reality itself, but a further series of representations, then the distinction between an exhibit and the real thing was not, after all, something absolute. The clear discernability between a representation and an original, promised by the exhibition, actually consisted only of representations standing for representations. Life was to be lived as though the world were an exhibition of reality; but the exits from the exhibition led not to reality itself, but only to further exhibitions. The real outside was never quite reached. It was only ever represented.

The exhibition, I hope, can serve as a motif for the kind of order and certainty we consider natural and commonsensical while remaining oblivious to its mysterious nature. With the help of this motif, such order can be seen no longer as something natural but as a particular historical practice in which we are still caught up. My aim has not been to describe its history, even in relation to the Middle East, but to isolate it and understand its peculiarity and power. To assist in its isolation, in chapter 21 tried to suggest what other kinds of order there may have been, in the case of the Middle Eastern or Mediterranean world, which the order of the exhibition sought to replace. I did so with the reservation that such other kinds of order risk seeming, as a consequence of this sort of analysis, simply the opposite of our own; and as such, something total and self-contained. These consequences, as I said then, are unintended.

Borrowing some examples from the work of Pierre Bourdieu, I argued that the order of this world does not appear as a fixed correspondence between material objects and the concepts they represent - between a realm of things in themselves and their meaning or plan. There is nothing symbolic in such a world, in our own strange sense of that term. Its order, therefore, is not something analogous to a picture, a text or an exhibit. It does not form a single, enframed totality, set up before an observing or reading subject and representing to this subject a 'meaning'. Order does not occur, in this sense, in relation to the idealised position of an observer (or reader) situated outside itself. Rather, order occurs as a play of correspondence and difference between things, or perhaps better, between forces; and always


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as a particular order, contingent upon a point or person formed out of this play.

As with the exhibition, my purpose was to take Bourdieu's Kabyle village as an instance that enables us to think about the larger world to which it belonged. To do so overlooks, of course, the enormous differences between a North African village and, say, the city of Cairo, as well as those between different social groups within such a city (including the learned and the unlearned), and between different periods in its history. It overlooks in particular the major economic and social transformations already under way in cities like Cairo in the eighteenth century and earlier. Nevertheless, to the extent that the example of the village makes it possible to conceive of a kind of ordering which is not that of the exhibition, and to do so without the usual recourse to notions of magic, religion or culture, it can be of use.

The kind of ordering which can be conceived with this example is not that of a structure, a text or a code. In such a world nothing pretends to stand apart as an inert spatial or conceptual framework. Thus there is no simple or absolute distinction, for example, between a city and its 'structure', nor, it follows, between the inside and its outside. As I suggested later on in chapter 2, a city such as pre-colonial Cairo was not divided into an exterior, public part and a private, enframed interior. It consisted of a series of more or less open enclosures, whose opening and closing was contingent upon such things as the time of day and the relationship between those entering and those within. These dynamics of spatial and personal relation provide a way of understanding not just the order of the house and the city, but wider notions of geographical and political order -none of which were conceived in terms of a fixed and separate framework. Order as a framework or structure, however, should not be mentioned simply as something absent; for its 'presence', in the contrasting case of the colonial city, was seen just now to be somewhat problematic. The absolute division between a modern city and its Oriental exterior, for example, which seemed to form the very identity of the colonial city, was found to be only a structural effect; on closer examination, the identity of the city could be understood to include its excluded exterior. The pre-colonial city, it follows, lacked not an actual framework establishing such divisions as exterior and interior, but rather the mysterious effect of such a framework.

In nineteenth-century Egypt the methods of creating such apparent distinctions between conceptual frameworks and the material they enframed provided a new technology of power. I discussed these technologies in chapters 2, 3 and 4, illustrating how they sought to work directly upon the bodies of individuals. I examined this 'disciplinary power', as Michel Foucault has called it, first of all in the New Order of the Egyptian army and in the


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attempt to form a parallel system of rural discipline and surveillance. I then showed how the same kind of disciplinary order, or nizam , was envisioned for the civilian population as a whole, in the form of a nationally organised programme of schooling. By its careful control of the body's movements, gestures, sounds, posture and cleanliness, education was to generate an authority no longer concentrated in the personal command of a master, but 'systematically diffused over the whole school ... without diminution', producing in the pupil a habit of 'implicit obedience'.

The politics of the modern state were modelled on this method of replacing a power concentrated in personal command, and always liable to diminish, with powers that were systematically and uniformally diffused. The diffusion of control required mechanisms that were measured rather than excessive and continuous rather than sporadic, working by invigilation and the management of space. Besides schooling and the army, these mechanisms included such civilising innovations as the supervision of hygiene and public health, a military-style system of permanent rural policing, the building of model villages on new, privately-owned agricultural estates, the construction of networks to channel and control the movement of commodities, Nile waters and tourists, the surveillance of workers on irrigation projects, on the railways and in factories, the opening up of towns and cities to continuous inspection with wide thoroughfares, street lighting and police forces, and the organisation of a system of criminal courts, prisons and insane asylums.[31] 'The waters of the Nile are now utilised in an intelligent manner', wrote Lord Cromer in summing up the achievements of the British occupation, '... The soldier has acquired some pride in the uniform which he wears. He has fought as he has never fought before. The sick man can be nursed in a well-managed hospital. The lunatic is no longer treated like a wild beast. The punishment awarded to the worst criminal is no longer barbarous. Lastly, the schoolmaster is abroad, with results which are as yet uncertain, but which cannot fail to be important.'[32] Within the language of improvement and civilisation reside the strategies of order that provided an unprecedented hold upon the bodies of individuals.

At the same time as they were extended, these strategies were to become increasingly unnoticeable. Lord Cromer, who liked to describe colonial control as a process of continuous 'tutoring', envisaged the ideal colonial official in the form of an omnipotent yet silent school teacher: 'he was to exercise supreme authority over his pupil, and at the same time ... his authority was to be unfelt'.[33] Yet while the new methods of order were to make the mechanisms of power increasingly unnoticeable, at the same time the truth of political power was to become something increasingly certain. This was because the new methods of creating the effect of frameworks or structures worked not only to hold and coordinate the individual subject's physical


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body. They were also to work upon a non-physical interior, the individual mind.

Schooling was again the practice in which this working upon the mind was most readily envisioned and put into practice. The discipline and coordination of schooling was to produce not only the implicit obedience of the body, but also a well-formed character. The most important trait of this character, as we saw in chapter 4, was its industriousness. The individual was to be produced, and was to be produced as, essentially, a producer. Character was something to be examined, to improve it and also to know how to rule it and control it. Such examination, as men like Lord Cromer made clear, was to be an essential part of the process of political control.

There was more to the question of the mind, however. The division of the political subject into an external body and a mental interior corresponded to the other divisions I have been examining, between representation and reality and between things and their structure, each of which was a method of effecting the same internal/external and material/conceptual dualities. This correspondence provides the connection between the disciplinary mechanisms that I examined in chapters 2, 3 and 4 and the questions about representation I raised in chapters 1 and 5. There might at first seem to be a contradiction rather than a correspondence: in discussing representation, I have examined the ways in which political authority or sovereignty was made visible, whereas in discussing disciplinary power I have stressed, following Foucault, that such power became more and more unnoticeable. Foucault in fact has argued that the new disciplinary power was something 'absolutely incompatible' with the notion of the authority or sovereignty of the state. The theory of sovereignty, he argues, was retained merely as an ideology, 'to be superimposed upon the mechanisms of discipline in such a way as to conceal its actual procedures'.[34]

My own response to this apparent contradiction is that discipline and representation are two aspects of the same novel strategies of power, linked by the notion of enframing. Disciplinary powers acquire their unprecedented hold upon the body by methods of distributing and dividing that create an order or structure in which individuals are confined, isolated, combined together and kept under surveillance. This 'order' is, in effect, a framework that seems to precede and exist apart from the actual individuals or objects ordered. The framework, appearing as something pre-existent, non-material and non-spatial, seems to constitute a separate, metaphysical realm -the realm of the conceptual. It is such 'order' that the modern and colonial state claimed to have introduced into Egypt; what was introduced, with this order, was the effect of the world's division into two realms, the material and the conceptual. In the same way as it divided the world, this division separated the human person into two distinct parts, a body and a mind. The


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power of representation worked in terms of this correspondence between the division of the world and the division of the person. Lyautey, once more, is the man to illustrate the correspondence.

Marshal Lyautey's tour of the colonial capital had been followed, in the evening, by a dinner at the New Residence for the visiting journalists and engineers. In his after-dinner speech, Lyautey discussed the formation of his own political ideas, recalling from his youth his discovery of the work of Descartes. 'I was at the lycée in Dijon, starting to study philosophy. That morning we had been given the Discours de la méthode in a small student edition. I kept that book for many years ... Anyhow, that night, in bed, I began reading this new book. Ah! I was fascinated. Such tidiness. Such order.[35] Lyautey, one might say, conceived of the nature of colonial order in the same terms as Descartes conceived of the nature of the human subject. The colonial city was to be constructed, like a world exhibition, as a representation set up before the mind of an observing subject. The Cartesian mind was conceived, in a similar way, as an interior space in which representations of external reality are inspected by an internal eye - in other words, again, like an exhibition set up before an observer.

Native scholars in the country Lyautey was seeking to colonise did not share this conception of human personhood. They did not conceive of the person as possessing a mind in this sense - that strange myth of a separate, non-spatial entity within which occur the 'mental processes' of representation.[36] They shared with other Muslim scholars what used to be the common scholarly conception of personhood throughout the Mediterranean world, going back to Aristotle. They conceived of the person as possessing reason, a power or faculty. Reason was the power of grasping universals amid particulars, the unchanging sameness amid differences.[37] It was one among numerous human faculties, albeit the most important since it was the mark or resemblance within human beings connecting them with the universal and the unchanging. For Muslim scholars, knowledge was a question of increasing this power of reason, deepening the grasp of universals. For Descartes, on the other hand, knowledge became the quest for certainty, understood as the correct modelling of an 'external reality' in the internal exhibit of the mind.

For the Muslim scholar, it follows, there was no corresponding mind/body dichotomy. The conceptual/material distinction was a distinction, at most, only between different human faculties rather than between different parts of the person. The faculty of reason, moreover, was concerned with distinguishing the trace of universal within the particular, rather than the conceptual from the material. It was only with Cartesian thought and, in the case of the Middle East, nineteenth-century politics that the human person


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came to be treated as something divided into two parts, on the one hand an external physical apparatus and on the other an interior mechanism of representation.

The exhibition motif can indicate the connections between a Cartesian notion of the mind and the politics of colonial order. The kind of political order epitomised in the world exhibition addresses, and demands, a political subject who must learn that reality is simply that which is capable of representation. Colonial or modern politics will seek to create for this subject a continuous theatre of certainty, unknown to pre-colonial politics. Such certainty rests, as we have seen, on accepting a series of essential distinctions, between mere representations and an 'external reality' beyond the play of representation, between models, texts or copies and an absolute 'original' to which they refer, and generally between a realm of the conceptual and the 'real world' outside. With a Cartesian conception of the subject, these distinctions come to inhabit the very nature of personhood, as something self-evident and unquestionable.

Lyautey's passion for the Discourse on the Method was not, perhaps, surprising. It was in the Discourse that European philosophy broke with the method of scholarship it had shared with the Islamic world. Such scholarship understood learning as a process that moved from text to text, as we saw with the learning of al-Azhar, constructing interpretation upon interpretation, one reading resting upon another like the buildings of a pre-modern city. What was wrong with such 'book-learning', as Descartes called it, was what was wrong with pre-modern cities. Descartes announced the West's rejection of the scholastic tradition by comparing it to 'those old cities' which 'are as a rule badly laid out, as compared with those towns of a regular pattern that are laid out by a designer'. The buildings of old cities, he explained, give no indication of such a designer, of the mind and intention that planned them. 'In view of their arrangement - here a large one, there a small - and the way they make the streets twisted and irregular, one would say that it was chance that placed them so, not the will of men who had the use of reason.'[38] Just as the person was now understood as composed of mind and material body, the material world was to be arranged in such a way as to reveal this mind, this pre-existent plan or framework, this intention or will. The practice of colonial politics would be based on the same strategy of arranging, of ordering everything up so as to reveal a pre-existent plan, a political authority, a 'meaning', a truth.

In the colonial order, in other words, the effect created of a framework would always appear as though it were a 'conceptual structure', as we say. It would appear, that is to say, as an order of meaning or truth existing somehow before and behind what would now be thought of as mere 'things in themselves'. Political authority itself would now more and more reside in


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this effect of a prior, ordering truth. The reorganisation of towns and the laying out of new colonial quarters, every regulation of economic or social practice, the construction of the country's new system of irrigation canals, the control of the Nile's flow, the building of barracks, police stations and classrooms, the completion of a system of railways - this pervasive process of 'order' must be understood as more than mere improvement or 'reform'. Such projects were all undertaken as an enframing, and hence had the effect of re-presenting a realm of the conceptual, conjuring up for the first time the prior abstractions of progress, reason, law, discipline, history, colonial authority and order.

These abstractions were no more than effects, and yet the very possibility and power of such effects was something new. They were created by the techniques that now divided the world into its two realms, the realm of mere things and the realm of order. The realm of order, of what was signified, was the new realm of authority, of the certainty of political power. Such political authority presides, as what is seemingly prior and superior. And yet it presides without ever quite being present. In the white mythology, it is that which stands apart from the world itself, as the meaning that things themselves represent. This political method is the essence of the modern state, of the world-as-exhibition. The certainty of the political order is to be everywhere on exhibit, yet nowhere quite accessible, never quite touchable. Like reality at the world exhibition, the world's political truths are never presented, they are only ever represented. But we remain certain they exist - outside.


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