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Chapter 2

In the second quarter of the nineteenth century the people of Egypt were made inmates of their own villages. A government ordinance of January 1830 confined them to their native districts, and required them to seek a permit and papers of identification if they wished to travel outside. 'It was scarcely possible', we are told, 'for a fellah to pass from one village to another without a written passport.' The village was to be run like a barracks, its inhabitants placed under the surveillance of guards night and day, and under the supervision of inspectors as they cultivated the land - and surrendered to the government warehouse its produce.[1]

No one before had thought to organise Egypt as one would barrack and discipline an army. The acts of confinement, regulation, and supervision of the population dawned suddenly. Wherever people looked, they were to be inspected, supervised, or instructed. If they left the village, it was generally under guard, forcibly drafted into the still harsher discipline of the corvée or the military camp - unless they were 'absconders' who abandoned their homes and fled, as tens of thousands began to do. If they were guards rather than those who were guarded, they still did not escape surveillance. Spies were placed at every point, and the hierarchy of supervision and inspection was to ascend from the field and the shop, through the levels of village, district, regional and provincial supervision, to the central Bureaux of Inspection (dawawin al-taftish ) under the direct supervision of the Governor.[2]

The attempt to control from Cairo the agricultural wealth of the Nile valley was in itself nothing new. Fifty years before, a single powerful household had defeated all other centres of power in the country and established, for a decade, uncontested control over its agricultural and commercial revenues - encouraging, as a result, Cairo's gradual incorporation into European world trade.[3] What was new in the nineteenth century was the nature of control. Earlier kinds of power, however centralised, were never continuous. They operated intermittently, typically in the form of levies, obligations and extortions imposed upon certain less powerful households, which in turn imposed levies on those less powerful around them, and so on. The irregular flows of revenue towards the centre were always weakened by


the inevitable leakage at each juncture, the need to expand outwards, and the centrifugal tendency to disintegrate.[4] From the nineteenth century for the first time political power sought to work in a manner that was continuous, meticulous and uniform. The method was no longer simply to take a share of what was produced and exchanged, but to enter into the process of production. By supervising each of its aspects separately and without interruption, political power attempted to discipline, coordinate and increase what were now thought of as the 'productive powers' of the country. The tendency of disciplinary mechanisms, as Michel Foucault has called these modern strategies of control, was not to expand and dissipate as before, but to infiltrate, re-order, and colonise.[5]

Foucault's analyses are focussed on France and northern Europe. Perhaps this focus has tended to obscure the colonising nature of disciplinary power. Yet the panopticon, the model institution whose geometric order and generalised surveillance serve as a motif for this kind of power, was a colonial invention. The panoptic principle was devised on Europe's colonial frontier with the Ottoman Empire, and examples of the panopticon were built for the most part not in northern Europe, but in places like colonial India.[6] The same can be said for the monitorial method of schooling, also discussed by Foucault, whose mode of improving and disciplining a population, as we will see, came to be considered the model political process to accompany the capitalist transformation of Egypt.

In this and the following chapter I will examine the introduction of these disciplinary mechanisms in modern Egypt, turning later to consider their connection to the methods of order and meaning I have referred to as the world-as-exhibition. Their introduction began under a single Turkish ruling household, that of Muhammad Ali, which acquired authority over Egypt (and increasing independence from Istanbul) after the Napoleonic occupation of 1798–1801. This authority subsequently came to be shared and exercised among a new landowning class, with the ruling family as the largest single landowners, together with European creditors and commercial interests and, from 1882, a European colonial regime.[7] The original strategies of disciplinary control on which such authority came to rest were found in the creation of a new Egyptian army.

From the year 1822, Egyptians had found themselves being taken in tens of thousands and turned, for the first time in memory, into soldiers.[8] The military forces of Ottoman Egypt had previously been formed out of foreigners conscripted from abroad, together with native Egyptians who inherited or purchased the right to military salaries. These small, part-time garrisons in the major towns, mostly of only one or two thousand men and with loyalties to competing political factions, controlled urban affairs only with difficulty and the countryside even less.[9] Such small bodies of


foreigners were now to be replaced with an enormous military force - up to two hundred thousand men or more according to some sources - drafted from the villages and towns of Egypt.[10] Barracks and training camps were ordered to be built near major towns along the length of the Nile, from Aswan to Cairo and out across the Delta, with 'each of the barracks to hold one thousand trainees and soldiers, and to be placed a quarter of an hour's distance from the town'.[11] The men were drafted into the army not for single campaigns but for several years and eventually for life. Their families often accompanied them where they went, building their own 'mud barracks' up against the walls of the camps.[12] The country's new regimentation can be said to begin with this event, the sudden spreading among the villages of the Nile of a new type of settlement, the barracks, and the drafting of ordinary Egyptians to populate them. The plan to turn the peasantry into soldiers by confining them and training them in barracks introduced a new kind of military practice, a new idea of what an army was and how it could be formed.

The new forms of practice were referred to as the 'new order' or nizam jadid . 'New order' was the Ottoman name for a plan introduced a little before in the Ottoman Empire, threatened by Russia's continued colonisation of its northern frontier, to reorganise the imperial soldiery and the system of taxation that supported it.[13] The name referred more specifically to the object at the heart of this plan: a new infantry corps, to be trained and organised according to the new techniques developed by the Prussians and the French. 'New order' was also the name used by Ottoman writers to refer to the Napoleonic regime in France.[14] After the fall of the Empire in 1815, defeated officers and engineers of the French armies made their way to Egypt, where the new order was to be established with their help. Egypt was the first province of the Ottoman Empire to introduce successfully the new kind of army.[15] The barracks and the training camps were built, and in April 1822 regulations were issued bringing all the barracks, military schools, and training camps under a common code of discipline and instruction.[16] The confinement to barracks, the discipline, and the instruction were all innovations.

An Artificial Machine

The new army, it was explained in an official Ottoman pamphlet, 'should not, like the rest of our forces, be composed of sellers of pastry, boatmen, fishermen, coffee-house keepers, baccals, and others who are engaged in the thirty-two trades, but of well disciplined men'.[17] An army was no longer to be thought of as an occasional body, brought together for seasonal campaigns. It was to be an organised force, created out of men compelled to live


permanently together as a distinct community, continuously under training even when not at war. The troops, in this new practice, 'should remain night and day in their quarters, applying themselves daily to military exercises, and keeping their arms, cannon, muskets, and warlike implements of every description necessary for immediate service; thus practising a discipline suitable to their appellation of soldiers of the new regulation'.[18]

Discipline of this sort was a new invention, adopted in most European countries only a generation or so before the nizam jadid , following the dramatic Prussian victories in the Seven Years War (1756–63).[19] The Prussians had introduced revolutionary techniques of precise timing, rapid signalling, and rigorous conformity to discipline, out of which an army could be manufactured as what the Prussian military instructions called an 'artificial machine'. Other armies in comparison would now seem like collections of 'idle and inactive men', a perception that was to change the way not just an army but any human group was viewed - as the ordinary Egyptian was to discover.[20] Such a 'machine' could fire with a rapidity three times that of other armies, making it three times as destructive, and could be expanded, wheeled, and withdrawn with mechanical ease.[21]

The Prussian military regulations were adopted in the decades after the Seven Years War by all the major armies of Europe, and improved upon by the French in new regulations of 1791. The new techniques of drill, discipline and command were the first thing upon which an Egyptian commented when describing the French troops that invaded his country in 1798. 'They make signs and signals among themselves', wrote the historian al-Jabarti, 'that they follow and never deviate from.'[22] The Ottoman pamphlet described more fully the careful control of sound and gesture that a system of discipline would achieve. 'The whole body, consisting of many thousand men, observe attentively the signals given them by the two fuglemen who explain by signs the commands of the officers, and not one dares so much as to turn his head. Thus the orders of the officers being communicated without the least noise, they stand firm, and lend an attentive ear, whilst not a word issues from their mouths.' Each movement and each moment, every sound, glance, and word, the angle of the head and the posture of the body, can all be controlled. 'If, for instance, the officer whose business it is to give the command, makes the signal for attention, the whole body are ready in an instant, and not one of them dares to stand idle, or to make any noise, or to look another way.'[23] The exact discipline and coordination of individuals makes it possible to build with them the artificial machine.

The ponderous warfare of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in which ever greater numbers of men were amassed to face each other head-on, was now to seem like the foolish clashing of mere crowds. [24] The old


troops, observed the Ottoman pamphlet, 'when in the presence of the enemy, do not remain drawn up in a line, but stand confusedly and promiscuously like a crowd in a place of diversion. Some load their muskets, and fire once, some twice, or oftener, just as they think proper, whilst others being at their wits' end, and not knowing what they are about, turn from side to side like fabulous story-tellers.' The troops of the new discipline in contrast 'remain drawn up in a line as if at prayers, the rear ranks being exactly parallel with the front, and consisting of the same number of companies, neither more nor less, so that, when it is necessary, they turn with as much precision as a watch'.[25] The parallel lines and mechanical precision present themselves as a new conception of order. Such order was not a harmony, balance or correspondence between the forces of the world - an older kind of order whose nature I will try to evoke more carefully below - but order itself, a state defined in no other terms than the ordering of what was orderless, the coordinating of what was discontinuous. In the new order, the disordered was transformed, the dispersed was articulated, forming a unity or whole whose parts were in mechanical and geometric coordination.

In the military, this produced a piece of machinery that could be 'turned with the precision of a watch'. It could be made to perform what the French officers in Egypt now called 'manoeuvres', to rotate, discharge weapons, contract, or expand on command. The officers of the new order, it was explained, could 'dispose a large body of men in a circular form, and then cause them to march round in such a manner, that as the circle turns the soldiers incessantly discharge their muskets on the enemy and give no respite to the combat, and having prepared their guns for a fresh discharge before they return to the same place, they fire the moment they arrive in the face of the enemy. The result of this circular formation is, that the fire and slaughter do not cease for an instant.' In such a machine, every individual occupied a position, a space, created (as with the cog of a wheel) by the identity of interval between each one. The interval or space was what men now controlled, contracting or enlarging it on command. 'Sometimes, when it is judged necessary, several thousand men being crowded into a narrow space, form a solid mass for the purpose of appearing to the enemy to be few in number, then by opening out, they can execute any manoeuvre that they please, and sometimes, ten thousand men deploying, appear to consist of fifty or sixty thousand.'[26] Order was a framework of lines and spaces, created out of men, in which men could be distributed, manoeuvred and confined.

With the new order, finally, efficient means were now available to control desertion, breaking the major technical barrier to the management of large human groups. Soldiers were confined when not at war to the camp or barracks, where they were guarded, drilled, and 'kept closely to the pitch of discipline'.[27] They were also to be set apart from the civilian community, by


their confinement and by the wearing of a uniform dress. 'The soldiers of our ancient corps', it was explained, 'are not at all clothed alike; from this diversity of garment, the following bad effect results: if, in times of war, any of them should desert from the army, as there are no marks by which we can distinguish whether the deserters belong to the troops, or whether they are tradesmen, or servants, they have thereby the opportunity of escaping without being known. Whereas the new troops have a particular uniform of their own, so that the stragglers would soon be discovered. Hence it results, that in a large camp of the new troops, every man will be forced to remain fixed in his company, and steady in the performance of his duty.'[28]

The Whole Surface of Society

Besides the barracks and the training camps, the new military order included more than a dozen schools for training specialised military cadres - including cavalry, artillery, infantry, and naval officers, signalmen, doctors and veterinarians, regimental bands, and engineers.[29] The schools were to employ the same disciplinary methods, based on 'the confinement of the students' and 'a regime of surveillance and constraint'.[30] Most of them were administered by French and Egyptian military engineers and scholars, many of whom had been trained at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, including several disciples of Saint-Simon and of his secretary Auguste Comte.

In the middle of the 1830s these men were responsible for drawing up a more comprehensive military training policy. The new plans called for the improved drill and training of the troops (February 1835), and a year later for the reorganisation of the military training schools. The latter plan called for a system of fifty primary schools for military recruitment, four in Cairo and the rest in the provincial towns. It laid down uniform rules governing discipline, physical fitness, curriculum, exams, clothing, rations, teaching staff, administration, and inspection. Students were to be under continuous supervision, not only in class but during their walks outside the school, during recreation, and in the dormitories. 'Discipline was to be strictly military and punishments were to be graded according to the misdemeanour; a student could be reprimanded in the presence of the whole school, confined to school, imprisoned and given bread and water, beaten with the kurbaj , or dismissed from school.'[31]

The plan further called for two preparatory schools, one in Cairo for 1,500 students and the other in Alexandria. These were 'essentially military establishments; the students were to be barracked like soldiers; they were to form three battalions in the Cairo school, each battalion consisting of four companies with one hundred and twenty-five students in each company; the junior officers and corporals were to be chosen from among the students, the


assistant masters were to command the companies, and the prefects the battalions.' Conduct was to be monitored continuously, and regulated by a careful hierarchy of disciplinary acts. 'Punishments were of twelve different degrees, which ranged from public reprimand to dismissal from school; a student could lose his rank if he were a junior officer or a corporal or be withheld from promotion by way of punishment.'[32]

The new order introduced a new mode of authority, which operated by the physical confinement of groups, the continuous monitoring of behaviour, the control of movements and gestures, and the careful construction of hierarchies. As the new schoolrooms already began to indicate, this order was to extend far beyond the barracks and the battlefield. 'The introduction of western organization into the armies of the Levant', wrote John Bowring, the friend and biographer of Jeremy Bentham who served as an advisor to Muhammad Ali and produced a report on Egypt for the British government,

brought with it other important results, for the appliances of mechanical art, of education, of knowledge, and a general system of dependence and subordination, were the needful companions of the new state of things. The transfer of the military power from unruly and undisciplined hordes to a body of troops regularly trained through the various grades of obedience and discipline, was in itself the establishment of a principle of order which spread over the whole surface of society.[33]

In the barracks, in the training camps and schools, and in battle, this principle of order made it possible to 'fix' men in place, to keep them 'steady in the performance of their duty', and to coordinate them as the separate parts of a single military machine. In the village and the cotton fields, the application of the same principle 'over the whole surface of society' made it suddenly conceivable to confine the population to their native districts, and (as the government was said to claim) 'to initiate people to an industry far superior to their own'.[34]

Watched over Night and Day

In order to fix the rural population in their place and induce them to begin producing cotton and other commodities for European consumption, it was necessary to have their places carefully marked out, their duty or quota exactly specified, and their performance continuously monitored and reported. The daily record, or jurnal (the word was borrowed from Europe), was the administrative practice with which the regimentation of rural Egypt began in the mid 1820s, when the government established regional and central Bureaux of Inspection, to receive the reports of its local inspectors ( jurnalji's ).[35] The 'general system of dependence and subordination' was


more fully elaborated in a sixty-page booklet issued in December 1829, La'ihat zira'at al-fallah wa-tadbir ahkam al-siyasa bi-qasd al-najah (Programme for Successful Cultivation by the Peasant and the Application of Government Regulations), which prescribed in detail how peasants were to work in the fields, the crops they were to cultivate, their confinement to the village, and the duties of those who were to guard and supervise them. The booklet was the outcome of a meeting of four hundred provincial administrators and military and government officers, called in Cairo in 1829 to address the problem of declining revenues and increasing desertion of the land.[36] It included at the end fifty-five paragraphs stipulating in hierarchical detail the punishments for over seventy separate failures of duty by peasants or their supervisors.[37]

The peasants were to be monitored in the performance of their tasks, as laid out in the Programme, working in the fields under the supervision of the mishadd and ghafir . 'These officers checked the fallahin daily, and watched them night and day to prevent them from abandoning the village.' Any peasant failing to perform his task was reported to the government-appointed head of the village, shaykh al-balad . 'If the shaykh discovered that a fallah had failed to cultivate his fields as required, he punished him by whipping him twenty-five times with the kurbaj . Three days later the shaykh inspected the fallah 's fields once again and if the peasant had not yet completed the necessary cultivation the shaykh was authorised to whip him fifty times. An inspection took place after another three days and this time the negligent fallah received one hundred lashes.' The head of the village was under the supervision of a district official, hakim al-khutt . If he was negligent in the supervision of the peasants, he was to be chastised on the first offence, punished with two hundred lashes on the second, and with three hundred on the third. The hakim was himself supervised by a regional official, the ma'mur , and his negligence was to be punished with a warning on the first offence and fifty strokes of the cane on the second. The ma'mur was responsible to the provincial official, the mudir , who was to submit his report each week to the central Bureau of Inspection. A similar hierarchy of duty, supervision, and discipline was instituted for the distribution of crops, the collection of taxes, the provision of men for the army and corvée, and the reporting, questioning, and seizure of any person found outside his village district without a permit and papers of identity.[38]

It is not the severity or frequency of punishment that makes this different from anything preceding it. Indeed regulation was intended to remove the harsh abuse of power. The change was in the meticulous elaboration of task, surveillance, and penalty. Each separate act was stipulated and supervised, to coordinate every individual in a single economy of crops, money, and men. It was an attempt to achieve the new order of the barracks and the


battlefield, with its hierarchy of signal, movement, and supervision, inscribed and enforced in the life of village and peasant.

There is no need to recount in detail the way in which these practices failed, or the devastation they caused.[39] Throughout the period there had been political uprisings in the provinces, which the new government troops systematically put down, and enormous numbers had absconded from their villages and fled. Such uprisings were nothing new; what was new was the power of the troops to put them down, for the methods of regimentation, as Bowring reported, had made the soldiery 'protectors instead of destroyers of property; they formed part of a structure of social improvement ... '[40] Yet in the 1830s even this structure of improvement seemed to some of the European experts to be weakening from within. 'One of the causes of the exhaustion of the pacha's army is the prevalence of nostalgia or homeache,' reported Bowring to the British government, 'a disease alike mysterious and incurable.'

A medical man in the service of the pacha reported to me that the number of persons who pined to death, sinking under the influence of this unmedicable malady, was very considerable ... 'I cannot keep them alive,' said a physician to me, 'when they begin to think of home.' And long before they die they sink into a listless, careless inanity.[41]

In the 1840s, after Egypt's growth into a regional military power had been halted by British intervention and its army reduced to 18,000 men, the government was still using its troops internally to gather up peasants not in their place of origin and return them forcibly to their native villages.[42] In April 1844 a government minister issued a notice to district officials, which announced 'that Tillage and Agriculture are the foundation of the comfort, happiness and prosperity of the Egyptian population, and in order to obtain the same it is found absolutely necessary that all those who have absented themselves from their primitive homes should return back to their native villages'. The notice was to be made known to the general public, and went on to order, as had frequently been ordered before, death by hanging for anyone harbouring peasants who had absconded from their villages 'in order to drop the word absconder entirely hereafter'. It described as a warning to others the fate of Suliman Badruddin, native of Minyat al-Sarig, who had been found giving refuge to absconders and 'was gibbeted in the Public Market of that place'.[43]

Despite such examples, peasants continued to desert their lands; and those sent for military service would mutilate themselves to avoid conscription. 'Some draw their teeth, some blind themselves, and others maim themselves, on their way to us,' complained the Governor of Egypt in a circular to his district officials issued in March 1833, 'and for this reason we send back the greater part ... I will take from the family of every such


offender men in his place, and he who has maimed himself shall be sent to the galleys all his life; I have already ordered this to the Sheiks in writing.'[44] The weaknesses of the military order are evident from the increasing severity of its methods of conscription, which began to rival those of Europe in their brutality.[45]

The nature of the problem emerges from the very contradiction of these texts. There is a conflict between the unprecedented penetration of the new methods of power, and the need to make them more acceptable, more unnoticed, more effective against diseases like 'nostalgia', and thereby more efficient. On the one hand, to escape conscription the greater part of the peasants were prepared to maim or mutilate themselves. Public hangings and other uses of violence had failed to deter entire populations from abandoning their villages and fleeing. The regimentation of the 'productive powers' of the country had made cultivation and forced labour a duty almost as oppressive as conscription into the army. The only relief for peasant families was to abandon their homes and 'abscond'. On the other hand, the state had already begun to search for a new language, 'in order to drop the word absconder entirely hereafter'. It announces, as widely as possible, 'that Tillage and Agriculture are the foundation of the comfort, happiness, and prosperity of the Egyptian population'. In the same way, Muhammad Ali had written in 1836 to the Inspector General of the military factories, in response to news that workers were being interned there and deprived of their wages, warning that the ordinary Egyptian ('the peasant') was to be properly treated, to ensure the government its income. 'Attend to his comfort, increase his pay, so that he applies himself to his work with complete satisfaction.'[46] The new methods of power were to seek to work through the very language and process of improvement.

After failing in the 1830s, when the attempt to penetrate and control the processes of production was made again in the 1840s a new method was used. The method this time was to place groups of villages in the custody of individual officials, beginning with members of the ruling family, and of European merchants. The villages were to be organised as personal estates, employing the same regime of spatial confinement, discipline and supervision.[47] These estates can be taken to mark the origin of a system of private landownership in modern Egypt, on which production for the European market would now depend.[48] On the private estates power as a localised process of order and discipline could now emerge and become entrenched, to the benefit of a new class of largely urban-based landowners and commercial landowning interests. As with the new army, this process of order would appear not as an arbitrary arrangement, but as order itself. The peculiar nature of such order can be further illustrated by examining what was to become a common feature of the new estates: the 'model village'.


Model Housing

The village of Kafr al-Zayat in the Nile Delta was part of an estate placed under the control of Muhammad Ali's son Ibrahim (the man whose unfortunate encounter with a Birmingham whale was mentioned in chapter 1). In 1846 its inhabitants were instructed to draw up a list of the families of the village, their animals, and the different 'industries' in which they were engaged. In accordance with this list the village was then rebuilt, under the supervision of French engineers charged with what was called 'the reconstruction of the villages of Egypt'. The inhabitants were moved into new houses, with each family allotted rooms according to its size and its social rank (ordinary, well-to-do, rich, or foreign). The 'model house' for an ordinary family consisted, in the description of one of the French engineers,

(1) of a courtyard of which the floor is raised 0.10 m above the level of the street, 8 in long by 4.34 m wide and thus able to accommodate, at night, at least three large animals and three small ... (2) of a room on ground level, of which the floor is raised 0. 10 m above the floor of the courtyard, and thus 0. 20 m above the level of the street, 4.35 m long by 3.70 in wide, illuminated by two windows: one high up, barred, overlooking the street, the other plain, overlooking the courtyard; containing at the rear a divan , large enough for two beds end-to-end ... (3) of a room on the first floor, with a small covered balcony overlooking the courtyard ...[49]

The same plans were used to rebuild several other Egyptian villages, including Neghileh, eleven miles to the south, and Ghezaier in the province of Menufiyya. At Neghileh, 'the wretched mass of huts formerly piled together without plan' was removed altogether, and replaced with a new village which an English traveller found to be 'very neat, laid out in streets crossing one another at right angles'.[50]

Projects of improvement of this kind contain less of the harshness of the methods of military order I have been describing. But the order they seek to achieve is a similar one. Such projects, no less than the military innovations, typify the new way in which the very nature of order was to be conceived. In modern Egypt, as in every modern state, order of this kind was to claim to be order itself, the only real order there has ever been.

The essence of this kind of order is to produce an effect I am going to call enframing. Enframing is a method of dividing up and containing, as in the construction of barracks or the rebuilding of villages, which operates by conjuring up a neutral surface or volume called 'space'. (It is no accident that the beginnings of this method in rural Egypt coincide with origins of private landownership, in which space becomes a commodity.) In reconstructing the village, the spacing that forms its rooms, courtyards, and buildings is specified in exact magnitudes, down to the nearest centimetre. Rather than


as an occurrence of walls, floors, and openings, this system of magnitudes can be thought of apart, as space itself. The plans and dimensions introduce space as something apparently abstract and neutral, a series of inert frames or containers.[51]

Within these containers, items can then be isolated, enumerated, and kept: three large animals and three small per courtyard; two beds end to end (and hence two persons) per room; even the positioning of pots, water jars and food supplies was specified in the French plans. The dividing up of such items is also the breaking down of life into a series of discrete functions - sleeping, eating, cooking, and so on - each with a specific location. The order of the reconstructed village was to be achieved by reducing its life to this system of locations and the objects and functions contained there, of a framework and what was enframed. The apparent neutrality of space, as the dimension of order, is an effect of building and distributing according to the strict distinction between container and contained.

The system of containers was easily represented in plans. Those for the reconstruction of Egyptian villages as far as I know have not survived, but in the same period French administrators drew up similar plans for the reconstruction of villages in Algeria. In the Algerian case the rebuilding of villages was more directly connected with achieving military control. Enormous numbers of Algerians had their villages destroyed and were moved to the new settlements, in order to depopulate areas where it was proving difficult to establish colonial control, and to bring the population under closer surveillance.[52] With the drawing of such plans, the achievement of order could be thought of in a particular way: as the relationship between the village and the plans. It could be achieved accordingly, with the conformity of village to plan reproduced in village after village, resulting in an ordered countryside of containers and contained.

Such a method of order offered the possibility of a remarkable standardisation, between houses, between families and between villages. As in the army, such uniformity would be a hallmark of the new order. But as with the invention of a system of military rank, the new methods of spatial order also worked by producing and codifying a visible hierarchy. The distinction was to be made, as was mentioned, between four different ranks of housing. Besides the model house for the ordinary peasant, there were dwellings for the well-to-do, for the rich, and for foreigners. The distribution of families according to these four categories would generate, or at least enfix and make certain, these distinctions among them, tending both to fix and make legible a determined social hierarchy. In any case, rebuilding made the village itself something legible, in the sense of the lists of households, livelihoods and livestock that were drawn up. This information could then be compiled into


statistics revealing the country's 'productive powers', at the same time as it was being inscribed in the unambiguous architecture of its new villages.

Such legibility, which is the mark of the world-as-exhibition, had a larger importance. The European experts were anxious to organise the production of statistical knowledge of this sort concerning Egypt (just as world exhibitions, as we saw in the last chapter, were designed to produce the same statistical legibility for the globe), gathering information on 'her population, her productions ... and generally speaking on all the questions which have a statistical character, and a bearing, directly or indirectly, on the development of her resources'.[53] The production of statistical information was already well under way with the publication of the Description de l'Egypte mentioned in the previous chapter, the work compiled by the French scholars who had accompanied Napoleon's military occupation of Egypt. The parts of the Description dealing with the état moderne included the calculation, in exact magnitudes, of such statistical questions as 'the average power of Egyptian men'; it was such powers, after all, that the new methods of order were seeking to penetrate, colonise, police and multiply.[54] The mechanical production of this knowledge, however, was impeded by the difficulties of colonial penetration and policing; not only, as the engineers would find, was there 'no machinery in existence to collect and classify facts', but the peculiar architecture and way of life of the Egyptian village made such 'facts' concerning the population and its productive power particularly inaccessible. As Bowring explained to the British government,

the difficulties of making anything like a correct estimate of the population are much heightened by the state of the Mahomedan laws and usages, which exclude half of society from the observation of the police. Every house has its harem, and every harem is inaccessible.[55]

The legible order of the model village would overcome this kind of inaccessibility, this problem of a population and a way of life invisible to 'the observation of the police'. As Foucault has written, in such ways the architecture of distribution and the art of policing can acquire a hold over individuals not simply by confining them but by opening up and inscribing what is hidden, unknown and inaccessible.

And yet, as Foucault also points out, this new kind of order was not in itself anything fixed or rigid. As a method of containment, its strength lay in its flexibility. 'The system of construction', the French account of the model village explains, 'is arranged so that one can install in the houses a family of any number of individuals (people as well as animals).' This was possible because the system of partition made the rooms into individual cells, which could be interconnected in any combination. Larger families were to be con-


tained simply by 'opening up a doorway in one of the dividing walls', which could be done 'without damage to the harmony between rooms or buildings'. Thus the network of cellular containers could be expanded, contracted, and made to communicate, without ever losing the character of composing a system, a whole whose separate parts were in 'harmony'.

This harmony of parts enabled a reconstructed village to offer not just a better knowledge and control of its inhabitants, but the possibility of coordinating them together in order to increase their productivity as a unit. Like the army, the new village could be thought of as a machine, generating effort out of the interaction of its individual parts. 'The mode of construction will greatly facilitate industry (le travail ) and will become in addition a valuable benefit to the future transactions of the inhabitants.'[56] Effort,

3 Plan of a government village, Algeria, 1848. Key: B house;
C courtyard; D guest-house; E residence of village head; 
G guardhouse; H storerooms, stables; M mill; N mosque.


productivity and interaction, these methods of rebuilding seemed to suggest, were individual forces which, like the village itself, could now be measured, re-assembled, multiplied, and controlled.

Cultural Beings

The connection between the techniques of enframing and the possibility of coordinating and increasing individual effort is to be explored further in the following chapter, where I will examine parallels between the rebuilding of Cairo and the introduction of organised civilian schooling. But to make it clearer what was new about the process of enframing, it may help at this point to say something first about the kinds of housing and the ways of living that the reconstruction of towns and villages attempted to replace; and at the same time to begin connecting the question of enframing, as a technique of order, to the question of meaning or representation. I propose to do so by discussing in the remainder of this chapter certain features of pre-modern Middle Eastern (or rather, Mediterranean) towns, combining this with some more recent examples drawn from Pierre Bourdieu's account of the

4 Plan of a Kabyle house.


housing of Kabyle villagers, a Berber-speaking community in Algeria.[57] I have two reservations about what follows. First, because the purpose of such examples is to make visible our own assumptions about the nature of order by contrasting them with a kind of order whose assumptions are different, I run the risk of setting up this other as the very opposite of ourselves. Such an opposite, moreover, would appear inevitably as a self-contained totality, and its encounter with the modern West would appear, again inevitably, as its rupturing and disintegration. These sorts of self-contained, pre-capitalist totalities acquire the awful handicap, as Michael Taussig has remarked, of having to satisfy our yearning for a lost age of innocence.[58] Such consequences, though perhaps inevitable, are undesired and unintended.

Second, my attempt to describe the kind of building that colonial villages and towns were to replace involves a particular difficulty: to describe a way of dwelling that did not reduce order to a question of the relationship between things and their plan, between the world and a map. Yet I will have to begin with a plan. The Kabyle house can be described as follows. It is rectangular in shape, and a double door gives access from the courtyard. Inside there is a low wall, dividing the interior into two parts. One part, slightly larger than the other and raised slightly higher, is reserved for human use. The fireplace is at its far end, and a weaving loom is assembled by the side wall opposite the doorway, the source of daylight; the other side wall, in which the door is set, is called the wall of darkness. The smaller, lower part of the house, occupied by the animals, has a loft above it where tools sand animal fodder are stored, and where women and children usually sleep, especially in winter.

Thus described, the particular layout of the house could be given what we and the French engineers would call a functional explanation. But Bourdieu suggests that distinctions between the different parts of the house and the different places where things are kept or activities carried out correspond to a series of associations and oppositions, which are not to be dismissed as 'merely symbolic', as they would be in a functional explanation.

The lower, dark, nocturnal part of the house, the place of damp, green or raw objects - water jars set on benches on either side of the stable entrance or against the wall of darkness, wood, green fodder - the place too of natural beings - oxen and cows, donkeys and mules - and natural activities - sleep, sex, birth, and also death, is opposed to the light-filled, noble, upper part: this is the place of humans and especially the guest, of fire and fire-made objects, such as the lamp, kitchen utensils, the rifle - the attribute of the male point of honour (nif ) which protects female honour (hurma ) - and of the loom, the symbol of all protection.[59]

The house is organised, Bourdieu explains, according to a set of homologous oppositions: between fire and water, cooked and raw, high and low, light


and shade, day and night, male and female, nif and hurma , fertilising and able to be fertilised. But to say 'the house is organised' in this way is misleading for two kinds of reason. First, the house is not in that sense a neutral space in which items or persons are arranged. The space itself is polarised, according to the oppositions Bourdieu describes, and the polar oppositions invest every activity of the house, including even the way in which the house is built. Considered, moreover, in relation to the rest of the village, the house becomes just one polarity, the 'female', in a larger world: 'The same oppositions are established between the house as a whole and the rest of the universe, that is, the male world, the place of assembly, the fields, and the market.'[60] The oppositions are not fixed categories into which items and spaces can be organised; they are an effect not of spatial coordinates but of polar forces. Second, as we will see, such polar forces occur themselves not as a structure of oppositions but as an unstable play of differences. The male, the light or the dry is each nothing more than the process of excluding or deferring the female, the dark or the wet. In a sense, therefore, the male includes the female, the light includes the dark, the dry includes the wet, and vice versa, for each term occurs only as the uncertain disappearance or postponement of what it differs from. Difference, as Derrida would tell us, is not a pattern of distinctions or intervals between things, but an always unstable deferring or differing within.

The remarkable order generated from the playing of these forces of difference must not mislead us into explaining it as just a 'different order' from the kind the French engineers envisioned; still less into explaining this difference in terms of the mythical beliefs of its North African inhabitants compared with the rational, disenchanted thought of the European; or even in terms of beliefs or cultural patterns that, again, are simply different from the cultural patterns of the modern European. Such explanations all continue to explain order in terms of a structure, pattern or mental plan conceived as existing apart from 'things themselves'.

Unlike the order envisioned by French engineers (and the builders of world exhibitions), the ordering of the North African house is not concerned with a relationship between things and a pattern or plan. Using the Algerian example and introducing some historical evidence alongside, I am going to try to characterise this kind of order in a number of ways. First, I will argue, it is not concerned with order as a framework, whose lines would bring into existence a neutral space in terms of which things were to be organised. Second, such ordering does not work by determining a fixed boundary between an inner world and its outside. Third, it is not concerned with an order set up in terms of an isolated subject, who would confront the world as his or her object. Nor, finally, is it concerned with meaning as a problem


for this individual subject of fixing the relation between the world and its plan or representation; or with truth as the certainty of such representation. Or rather, to put the emphasis differently for a moment, what we inhabitants of the world-as-exhibition would ordinarily take for granted as the elements of any order - framework, interior, subject, object, and an unambiguous meaning or truth - remain problematised and at play in the ordering of the Kabyle world. In my re-reading of Bourdieu's account of the Kabyle house, I want to suggest how much our own exhibition-world is enchanted with certain beliefs about structure, subjectivity and truth.

Rather than in terms of a structure, first of all, it may help to begin by thinking of the Kabyle house in terms of a balancing or tending. In the Kabyle world, everything that presents itself - darkness and sunlight, fire and water, men and women, animals and seeds, roofbeams and pillars - presents itself not as a mere object, as we would say, but no less reasonably, as a certain force or potential. The life of the house is a tending to the play of these differential forces, an attending to their potential for plenitude or barrenness.

Grain, to take just one example, is not a thing to be consumed, but a potential fullness (of the fields or of the stomach) whose necessary and contradictory relations with both fire and water determine how it is to be handled. The grain set aside for consumption is kept, we are told, in large earthenware jars against the end wall of the upper part of the house, near the fireplace, whereas grain intended for sowing is stored in the dark part of the house, 'in sheepskins or wooden chests placed at the foot of the wall of darkness, sometimes under the conjugal bed; or else in chests placed under the bench against the dividing wall, where the woman, who normally sleeps at a lower level, by the stable entrance, comes to join her husband'. Thus whereas the grain which must feed the household and ensure its wellbeing is associated with the fire that will transform it into bread, the grain set aside as seed corn, which must swell in the soil to provide next year's food, is associated with the dampness and water on which such swelling depends, and also with the woman, and by analogy with the swelling of the pregnant woman's belly.[61]

The order of the Kabyle house, or what we would call the organisation of its space (none of these terms is sufficient or appropriate) can better be thought of as this kind of attentiveness to the world's fertility or potential fullness. Such potential or force plays as the rhythm of life, a life made up not of inert objects to be ordered but of demands to be attended to and respected, according to the contradictory ways in which they touch and affect each other, or work in harmony and opposition, or resemble and oppose one another. Thinking of the life of the house in these terms, which


have little to do with magic or myth in the pejorative sense of such words, enables us to begin to see the limits of the French engineers' provocative technique of order, and the political mythology to which it gives rise.

The Filling of the House

In the first place, then, there is nothing, strictly speaking, in the North African house made to stand apart as a frame. Its order is not achieved by effecting an inert structure that contains and orders a contents. Not even its roof and sides form such a framework. The pillars, walls and beams of the house all carry their own charge, so to speak. They all exist only in exerting a continuous force or maintaining a certain balance, implicating them in the same patterns of resemblance and difference. 'At the centre of the dividing wall, between the "house of the human beings" and the "house of the animals" stands the main pillar, supporting the "master beam" ... [This beam], which connects the gables and extends the protection of the male part of the house to the female part, is explicitly identified with the master of the house, whereas the main pillar, a forked tree trunk ... upon which it rests, is identified with the wife.' The interlocking of the beam and the pillar, we are told, 'symbolises sexual union'.[62] The word symbol here suggests merely a conceptual representation, but the connection is nothing conceptual. Since the building of a house always takes place when a son is married, the interlocking of its parts is a direct reenactment and repetition of the union that forms the new household. The sexual union and the assembling of the house echo and resemble one another. Neither is a mere symbol of the other. I will come back to this question of representation and the symbolic a little later.

In this and similar ways the parts of the house are implicated in the life of the household. What exists is this life, in its cycles of birth, growth and death. The house is a process caught up in this life-and-death, not an inert framework that pretends to stand apart. A simple parallel can illustrate this from within the house, in the form of the weaving loom. We would tend to think of the loom in the way we think of a house, as a frame, within whose framework an object, the textile, is formed and given shape. But in North Africa, we are told, the loom is not thought of as a mere frame in this sense. Its parts are never assembled except in the process of weaving, and have no single name except as an aspect of the weaving. The parts brought together in weaving are conceived as male and female, and the textile formed out of them is a 'life' that is tended and grown, in a manner that imitates the growth of the house.[63] Moving back to the house, one could say in the same way that there is no mere house, but rather an active housing, engendered in the forming of a household and sustained as an aspect of its vigour, never as a


neutral framework. Housing is not an object or container but a charged process, an inseparable part of a life that grows, flourishes, decays and is reborn.

In the Berber and Arabic languages there are several words for this life, in the sense of what builds and flourishes. To indicate some of the larger significance of this discussion of houses, I will mention briefly the use of one such term, taken from a relatively well-known historical source, the work of Ibn Khaldun, who lived in North Africa in the fourteenth century. Ibn Khaldun's major work, the Muqaddima , is an extended study of 'umran , a word usually translated in this context as 'civilisation' or 'culture'. The book examines the political and historical conditions under which 'umran appears, flourishes, and declines. Ibn Khaldun discusses such political conditions not in terms of some abstract framework such as 'the state', but in terms of the rise and decline of the built environment. Political life is examined as the building and decay of cities. The word to build, in this context, is 'amar (the ' here refers to the Arabic letter 'ayn ), a word which for Ibn Khaldun can mean to live, prosper, flourish, be full, fill with life, inhabit, raise, be in good repair, build, and rebuild. It is from this word that is produced the term 'umran , with the same kinds of meaning: activity, bustling life, fullness (of a market well-stocked with goods, for example, or a harbour frequented by ships and merchants), prosperity, building.[64] Ibn Khaldun's study of 'umran is a study of the conditions that can bring about this building, this fullness, which we awkwardly translate as culture. Building is an active, undetermined process, marked in cycles of abundance and decay, rather than simply the material realisation of a predetermined 'plan'.

Nowhere in the Muqaddima does building, or 'umran , involve the notion of a plan. Consequently in Ibn Khaldun the word 'umran never means culture in the modern senses of the term, which are inseparable from the idea of a plan. The modern term establishes its meaning in contradistinction to an inert 'materiality' of the city, by designating an ideality of shared meanings or social patterns. The meaning of Ibn Khaldun's term, whatever its technical senses, remains rooted in a process of growth and fullness. It does not derive its force from any distinction between materiality versus meaning, the city versus its plan.[65] Without reference to Ibn Khaldun, and in the rather different context of the Berber village, Bourdieu draws attention to a very similar notion of fullness. In the housing he studied, the practices demanded of the peasant follow a pattern of emptying and filling. Analogies are drawn, as we saw, between the fullness of the fields, the fullness of the stomach and the fullness of the pregnant woman. In general, the processes of social and agricultural life seek 'the filling of the house' (la 'mmara ukham ), where the Berber word for filling corresponds to the Arabic terms 'amar and 'umran .[66]


The notion of cyclical growth and fullness apprehends the processes of the world without dividing it into a material realm and a conceptual, and is connected to an entire understanding of history and politics in the writing of Ibn Khaldun. A proper discussion of his ideas lies beyond the scope of this work, but it is in these sorts of terms that one might approach the question of order in the pre-colonial Middle Eastern or Mediterranean town. Discussions of the so-called Islamic city have tended to acknowledge none of the peculiarity of the methods of order and meaning that characterise cities since the industrial age, sometimes making do instead with a reference to the 'organic' nature of pre-modern cities and then examining the consequent problem of their 'order'. But there was no problem of order, in our own sense of a framework or plan, in such cities, just as there was no word naming such a thing in Ibn Khaldun. There was instead a cycle of fullness and emptiness, a continuous life which includes death (whereas order can never include disorder), a continuous building and rebuilding amid the forces of decay.

What this amounted to, then, was a way of building and living that refused to resolve itself into the appearance of a frame and what is enframed. A Middle Eastern town never affected a distinction between the 'materiality' of building and other practices and the 'ideality' of their structure and representational meaning. A town was not built as a series of structures located in space. The spacing was the building, and such spacing, in the city as much as in the village, was always polarised.

In the case of pre-modern Cairo, for example, building usually involved opening up an enclosure, such as a courtyard enclosed by rooms or columns, polarised in many cases according to the direction of Mecca. This was so not only with mosques, but with ordinary housing as well, at least up until after the Ottoman conquest. In fact it has been shown, for Cairo, that the orientation of building, of worshipping, and of receiving guests, the direction of Mecca, the path of the sun, the forces of the zodiac and the properties of the prevailing winds were all precisely correlated.[67] With larger houses, the interior space carved out as courtyard and rooms was aligned precisely with such 'polar' directions and forces, rather than with the street or with neighbouring buildings.[68] The house, or the shared housing in the case of poorer dwellings, then expanded around this enclosure, in whatever shape and size the presence of neighbouring buildings allowed. Its generally blank and irregular exterior seldom corresponded to the shape, or represented the purpose, of its carefully oriented interior. In this sense there were no exteriors, and the city was never a framework of streets on which structures were placed. As we will see, streets too were enclosures. The city was the spacing of intervals or enclosures forming a continuous materiality. Its order was a question of maintaining, within such enclosures, the proper


relationships between directions, forces and movements, not its ability to reveal in material form the determining presence of a non-material plan or meaning. It was an order without frameworks.

The Outside

A second, related way of characterising the modern kind of order I have called enframing is that it works by determining a fixed distinction between outside and inside. There appears to be an unambiguous line along which an exterior frames an interior. The new colonial and European cities of the nineteenth century made their clearest principle the fixed divide between the bourgeois interior and the public exterior. There has been no difficulty since then in discovering a similar division in the traditional Middle Eastern town; similar but in fact more rigid, between the interior world of women and the family and the public, male world of the marketplace and mosque.

At first sight the Kabyle village seems to exemplify this fundamental division. The walls of each house certainly separate an inside from an outside, the one corresponding to a female world and the other the male. But if we look at the house more closely, or rather situate ourselves within it (for the method of building provides no place for an outside observer to stand), this fixed division begins to invert itself and collapse. First, as we saw, the female interior is itself composed out of a 'male' upper part and a 'female' lower part. But this, Bourdieu tells us, is really only at night, and especially in the winter when the men sleep indoors. In the summer, when they sleep outside in the courtyard, the house as a whole forms a 'female' interior. During the daytime, however, the courtyard is made temporarily a women's space by the exclusion of the men, who are confined to the gateway, the place of assembly, or the fields. (Women can only be said to be confined to the interior in the sense that men, for example, are also confined to the fields.) So the dividing of male and female space, outside and inside, varies with the time, the season, the work to be done, and other forces and demands. It is such unstable forces and demands that polarise space, and each polarity occurs only as the temporary exclusion or postponement of its own opposite.

If we turn from the village to the town, things at first seem rather different. André Raymond's work on the great Arab cities of the eighteenth century stresses the distinction between the public world of the mosques and markets on the main thoroughfares, and the private world enclosed around the courtyards of the houses, which opened not on to the street but on to blind alleyways whose gates to the street were always closed at night. In Ottoman Cairo, these impasses leading to courtyards are said to have formed almost half the total length of the city's streets.[69] The market streets were distinguished from such impasses as public places where strangers to the


city could enter and do business. Disputes involving strangers required the intervention of public officials, who would never intervene in the private disputes of the courtyard or alley.

But again the distinction between the public exterior and the domestic enclosure was not some fixed boundary. The market streets were lines of penetration from outside the city, where external routes extended into the urban interior. They too formed only a 'hollow enclosure' like the courtyard, as Roberto Berardi has written, stretched out in linear form to contain the visiting stranger. They too had gates, separating the city into quarters. At night, the gates of the city would close upon the world outside, those of the impasses upon the streets and lanes, of these upon the main thoroughfare, and of the thoroughfare upon the neighbouring quarters. The city, writes Berardi, is 'a network made up of enclosures, of prohibitions and accorded rights. There is no more than a sliding between its moment of permission and its moment of prohibition. It is in fact this sliding between degrees of opening and accessibility, of closure and exclusion, that in everyday practice is lived.'[70] Rather than a fixed boundary dividing the city into two parts, public and private, outside and inside, there are degrees of accessibility and exclusion determined variously by the relations between the persons involved, and by the time and the circumstance.

The Vie Intérieure

The dynamic relation between openness and closure was the corollary of an urban life that refused to make something stand apart as its framework. Without the urban effect of a framework there could be no fixed division into outside and inside. To this division there corresponds, in turn, a question of the city's 'meaning'. A city with no fixed exteriors, after all, is a city generally without façades. The significance of this can be drawn from the experience of the European visitor. Whether tourist or scholar, the European expected to find an order in the form of an unambiguous line which, like the gates of the exhibition or the cover of a book, separates what is inside from what is outside. This separation was how Europeans made sense of something, how they read it. Take the following reading of the city of Algiers, seen from the sea, by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1841.

Le tout présent l'aspect de la vie intérieure au plus haute degré. L'architecture peinte les besoins et les moeurs: celle-ci résulte seulernent pas de la chaleur du climat, elle peint à merveille l'état social et politique des populations musulmanes et orientales: la polygarnie, la séquestration des femmes, l'absence de toute vie politique, un gouvernement tyrannique et ombrageux qui force de cacher sa vie et rejette toutes les affectations du coeur du côté de la famille.[71]


Algiers, unlike Cairo as we saw, was a town that happened to be clearly visible to an external observer, from a ship at sea. So clearly, in fact, that in 1830 entrepreneurs from Marseilles had converted a steamer into a floating hotel and taken tourists to watch the city's bombardment and occupation by the French. (Thus from its opening act of violence, European colonisation of the Middle East began to involve the new tourist industry.) It was to examine the progress of this occupation a decade later that Tocqueville arrived. He was already within France an 'expert' on Algeria, and one of the most articulate spokesmen in the Chamber of Deputies for the completion of the country's conquest and colonisation.[72]

From outside and from a distance Tocqueville sees the city as a 'whole', which is to say as a picture or representation. He interprets this picture by

5 Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1889: the Kabyle house.


assuming the city is constructed out of the opposition between an exterior and an interior, the one visible, the other invisible. The visible exterior, or 'architecture', is taken to be a representation of the invisible vie intérieure . The architecture 'portrays the necessities and customs' of this interior life, indeed of Muslim and Oriental life in general. In a characteristic intellectual gesture, life is read as an invisible internal meaning made visible in an external material form. The meaning is something made visible only to the outside observer, who stands apart and sees the world as a representation.

The problem with this is not that Tocqueville has misread. A misreading implies that there would be a correct reading of what Algiers was built to represent. Algiers, however, like Cairo, was not built according to the easy mythology of representation, and did not offer an 'architecture' or external framework pretending to 'portray' its interior life. Its understanding would require other gestures than those of the intellectual tourist viewing the city from the sea. But Tocqueville is unable to escape the tourist's objectifying habit. The characteristics of the life he then sees, so convenient to the colonisation he defends, that it is secretive, suspicious, and without a political or public life, are no more than the effects of reading it as though it were a representation.

Western students of Middle Eastern societies since Tocqueville have generally not brought up this problem of representation. Instead they have often taken what are considered its distinctive urban forms, or indeed the lack of such forms, as one of the most characteristic features of Middle Eastern culture. The Cambridge History of Islam has described urban life as a model or ideal at the centre of Islam, but an ideal whose strange material embodiment in actual Middle Eastern towns becomes a 'paradox' of Islamic society:

The urban ideal of Islam created no forms, no urban structure ... It replaced the solidarity of a collective community with an anomalous disorganised heap of disparate quarters and elements. By a really very remarkable paradox, this religion endowed with the ideal of urban life produced the very negation of urban order.[73]

The complaint to be made about these kinds of descriptions of the Middle East is not that they are distorted, by the ordinary intellectual assumptions of their authors, or that they are misrepresentations. These words imply the simple existence of an original object, of which an accurate representation might be made. They remain oblivious to the peculiar, historical nature of this absolute distinction between representation and original. It is this obliviousness which produces Islam's so-called paradoxes. The 'urban order' or the 'urban structures' such accounts find missing are assumed to be order or structure itself, rather than the effects, as we saw in Paris, of a technique of building that seems to divide the world into imaginary


structures and their material realisation, into representations and simple originals. There are no such simple originals, but only the process of deciding to pretend that there are, and of forgetting this decision.

What this anomalous urban life lacked in particular, we are sometimes told, is formal institutions - the 'inner structure' of the 'material' city.[74] When we speak of an institution, somewhere in our thinking there often lurks the picture of a building or a street. The building stands for an institution, giving a visible exterior to the invisible 'inner structure', and it is remarkably difficult to think of a public institution without thinking of the building or street that represents it. Middle Eastern cities that 'lacked institutions' lacked more especially the imposing public buildings which might contain an institution, and represent it. It is perhaps worth thinking of our assumptions about urban structure in terms of this simple question. Further help can be sought in the writings of Ibn Khaldun and other Arab historians and geographers. In such works, and even in the everyday documents and correspondence that have survived from the pre-modern past of a city such as Cairo, official activities are never indicated by reference to or in terms of an imposing building; in manuscript illustrations, we are told, 'there does not seem to be an identifiable architectural vision of the publicly accessible official building'. Urban life was understood and referred to in written sources 'by function, never by location'.[75] Or rather, since we saw in the model village that the notion of function itself depends on the partitions of a system of frameworks, the life of the city was understood in terms of the occurrence and reoccurrence of practices, rather than in terms of an 'architecture'- material or institutional - that stands apart from life itself, containing and representing the meaning of what was done.

A Transcendental Presupposition

The example from Tocqueville has recalled the third aspect of enframing I want to mention, namely the way it provides a place from which the individual can observe. As we saw in chapter I, the new nineteenth-century capitals of Europe, like the world exhibitions at their centre, were deliberately constructed around the individual observer. Haussmann laid out the boulevards of Paris to create a precise perspective in the eye of the correctly positioned individual, who was given an external point of view by the enframing architecture. The observer 'perceives himself at the centre of the city', wrote a Tunisian visitor, 'surrounded by its buildings, its streets and its gardens'.[76] But it was not just the particular position that was new; it was the very effect of having a position. Its strange novelty was the novelty of modern subjectivity, which is not a 'natural' relation of the person to the world but a careful and curious construction. The subject was set up outside


the façades, like the visitor to an exhibition, and yet was surrounded and contained by them. It was a position at once both outside and inside. In contrast, the Kabyle village or the pre-colonial Middle Eastern town provided no such position. The architectural feint of façades and viewpoints was not at work. The individual did not stand outside an object world as the one addressed by it, nor at its centre as the one in terms of whom, as it seems to us, there is an order and a meaning.

The techniques of enframing, of fixing an interior and exterior, and of positioning the observing subject, are what create an appearance of order, an order that works by appearance. The world is set up before an observing subject as though it were the picture of something. Its order occurs as the relationship between observer and picture, appearing and experienced in terms of the relationship between the picture and the plan or meaning it represents. It follows that the appearance of order is at the same time an order of appearance, a hierarchy. The world appears to the observer as a relationship between picture and reality, the one present but secondary, a mere representation, the other only represented, but prior, more original, more real. This order of appearance is what might be called the hierarchy of truth.[77] As we saw in the first chapter with the European visitors to the Orient, it is in terms of such a hierarchical division, between a picture and what it stands for, that all reality, all truth is to be grasped. The methods of ordering, distributing and enframing that create the division, therefore, are the ordinary way of effecting what the modern individual experiences as the really real. The construction of ordered villages and towns in the Middle East was one particular manner of introducing this effect into Middle Eastern politics, just as it had been introduced in the modern age into the politics of Europe.

In what ways was the order of appearance something new? I will try to explain this, again, using the example of the Kabyle house. Whatever happens or presents itself in the world Bourdieu describes, happens, I suggested, as a potential for fertility or barrenness, for the fullness of life or its emptiness. Practical life is lived as an attending to this potential. It demands an attentiveness to the practical ways in which one thing could affect or excite another, the ways in which things that are juxtaposed could displace or intermingle with one another, how something could produce strength in one thing and weakness in another, how things penetrate or allow penetration. In other words one needs to understand the relations of sameness or sympathy between things, and of antipathy and disagreement. One needs to understand the homology between the bitterness of gall and the bitterness of wormwood, or between the seed that swells in the ground and that which swells in the woman's womb. Such relations are not the relations between an object and its meaning, as we would say, or between a symbol and the idea for which it stands.


There is nothing symbolic in this world. Gall is not associated with wormwood because it symbolises bitterness. It occurs itself as the trace of bitterness. The grain does not represent fertility, and therefore the woman. It is itself fertile, and duplicates in itself the swelling of a pregnant woman's belly. Neither the grain nor the woman is merely a sign signifying the other and neither, it follows, has the status of the original, the 'real' referent or meaning of which the other would be merely the sign. These associations, in consequence, should not be explained in terms of any symbolic or cultural 'code', the separate realm to which we imagine such signs to belong. They arise entirely from their particular context, in the difference and similarity that produces context, and are as many and as varied as such contexts might be. This is something the notion of code, which by definition stands apart from context, can never contain. Thus gall, Bourdieu tells us, is associated with bitterness and therefore equivalent to wormwood, but also to oleander and to tar (and opposed, with these, to honey); in other contexts it is associated with greenness, and thus equivalent to lizards and to the colour green; and in still other contexts with anger (a quality inherent in the other two). Lizards, in turn, are associated with toads and thus with further qualities, and so on. Such resemblances and differences do not form a separate realm of meaning, a code apart from things themselves; hence this very notion of 'thing' does not occur. For the same reason, there is no 'nature' - in our own sense of the great referent, the signified in terms of which such a code is distinguished. There are, rather, the necessary relations at work in a world where nothing occurs except as something that resembles, differs from, duplicates or re-enacts something else.[78]

This vibration of echoes and repetitions always carries the paradox of such repetition - what occurs is always the same as and yet different from what it duplicates. In the face of this paradox, moreover, nothing is decided, no simple hierarchy of truth is accepted. Where everything occurs as the trace of what precedes and follows it, nothing is determined as the original. Nothing stands apart from what resembles or differs, as the simple, self-identical original, the way a real world is thought to stand outside the exhibition. There is no hierarchical order of the imitator and the imitated, as in an exhibition or any other system of representation. Everything both imitates and is imitated. There is no simple division into an order of copies and an order of originals, of pictures and what they represent, of exhibits and reality, of the text and the real world, of signifiers and signifieds - the simple, hierarchical division that for the modern world is 'what constitutes order'. The order of this world is not an order of appearance.[79]

The European visitor arrived in this world, let us recall in conclusion, contained by an unshakeable habit of thought, a habit nurtured in the world of the exhibition. He arrived with a metaphysical belief, a theology, or what


Max Weber was to call in his essay on 'Objectivity in social science' a 'transcendental presupposition', namely 'that we are cultural beings '. Weber meant by this that we are the kind of beings who 'take up a deliberate posture towards the world and lend it significance '.[80] Thanks to this peculiar posture, such 'significance' can appear as something apart from the 'meaningless infinity', as Weber could now say, of the world outside. Significance resides in the space opened up, in the grounds of the world exhibition and in the similar ordering of the world beyond, between a human subjectivity and the world's inert facticity. 'There are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play', Weber tells us. '... One can, in principle, master all things by calculation. This means that the world is disenchanted. One need no longer have recourse to magical means in order to master or implore the spirits, as did the savage, for whom such mysterious powers existed.'[81]

Believing in an 'outside world', beyond the exhibition, beyond all process of representation, as a realm inert and disenchanted - the great signified, the referent, the empty, changeless Orient - the modern individual is under a new and more subtle enchantment. The inert objectness of this world is an effect of its ordering, of its setting up as though it were an exhibition, a setup which makes there appear to exist apart from such 'external reality' a transcendental entity called culture, a code or text or cognitive map by whose mysterious existence 'the world' is lent its 'significance'. Hence the European visitors to the Middle East, no longer savage but tamed into scholars and soldiers and tourists, as docile and as curious as the millions who visited the exhibition, take up their deliberate posture towards its towns and its life, and implore the spirits of significance to speak.


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