Abstract

This article investigates change and continuity in anxieties about shopping during the first half of the twentieth century in Egypt to argue that department stores and their salesclerks became critical sites for enacting and challenging new notions of sexuality and citizenship. Retail innovations, such as commission pay, display, free entry, and large commercial staffs, became understood as sexual and moral problems because department stores blurred the boundaries between classes and were public spaces where unrelated men and women could mix. These concerns about sexuality in the 1920s were recycled and amplified in the late 1940s and early 1950s when salesclerks again came under scrutiny during debates over citizenship and ethnicity. I argue that the particular way this latter debate was barnacled by the concerns of the 1920s helped to delineate the broader society's reaction to the challenges of defining Egyptian nationality.

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