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Connected in Cairo

Growing up Cosmopolitan in the Modern Middle East

Mark Allen Peterson

Publication Year: 2011

For members of Cairo's upper classes, cosmopolitanism is a form of social capital, deployed whenever they acquire or consume transnational commodities, or goods that are linked in the popular imagination to other, more "modern" places. In a series of thickly described and carefully contextualized case studies -- of Arabic children's magazines, Pokémon, private schools and popular films, coffee shops and fast-food restaurants -- Mark Allen Peterson describes the social practices that create class identities. He traces these processes from childhood into adulthood, examining how taste and style intersect with a changing educational system and economic liberalization. Peterson reveals how uneasy many cosmopolitan Cairenes are with their new global identities, and describes their efforts to root themselves in the local through religious, nationalist, or linguistic practices.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa

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pp. ix-xii

There is a scene in the brilliant Egyptian comedy film Irhab wal-Kabab (terrorism and barbecue) in which an old man on a crowded Cairo bus, who has been griping about all the frustrations Egyptians must put up with, is told by a young man that he sounds like a fizzing coke bottle. The man retorts that even coke bottles explode once in a while when you shake ...

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pp. xiii-xv

I went to the Middle east to teach anthropology at the American University in Cairo. That this book exists at all is due to the encouragement and support of many colleagues there, but especially Abdallah Cole, Soraya Altorki, Nick Hopkins, Rebecca Bryant, and the deeply missed Cynthia Nelson. Just as important were the contributions from the many, many ...

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Note on Transliteration

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pp. xvii

This book draws primarily from oral texts in the Cairene dialect. As consistently as possible, I have followed the system adopted by the International Journal of Middle East Studies, except that I have omitted all diacritics except the ayn and the hamza. I have not, however, forced colloquial words into the straitjacket of modern standard Arabic. For the names of ...

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1. Toward an Anthropology of Connections

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pp. 1-27

Economically dependent on foreign aid, tourism, and foreign investment, Cairenes look abroad for models of development and study foreign languages in pursuit of social mobility. Meanwhile, foreign goods flood the markets. Cheap plastic toys made in China are hawked on street corners in the central urban neighborhoods of Tahrir and Dokki, electronics made ...

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2. Making Kids Modern Agency and Identity in Arabic Children's Magazines

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pp. 28-63

On a warm day in October 2001, I watched two preadolescent boys walking down the street. I was sitting outside an apartment building in the affluent suburb of Ma‘adi, sipping tea and waiting for my host, the apartment complex’s security guard, to return from a telephone call. The boys caught my eye as a study in contrasts. One was dressed in the cheap blue pants, ...

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3. Pok

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pp. 65-95

It is not a coincidence that one of the key signifiers of difference and differentiation between Yasseen and his schoolmate Ismail was Pok

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4. Talk Like an Egyptian

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pp. 97-137

In 1998, producer Muhammad ‘Adl released what became one of the most commercially successful films in the history of Egyptian cinema: Sa‘idi fil Gama‘a al-Amrikiyya (A Southern Egyptian at the American University). The title alone was enough to bring chuckles to many Egyptians, linking a person from a place representing the depths of Egyptian backward-...

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5. Coffee Shops and Gender in Translocal Spaces

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pp. 139-169

...“These towers are for the very rich,” Maged told me, pointing to the thirty-two-floor First Residence complex adjoining the First Mall shopping complex in Giza. “The flats cost $3 million, just for one. Inside, there are elevators for automobiles, so they can rise up to their flats. And on the rooftop, there are helicopters. If there is trouble, they can fly out of the country.”...

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6. The Global and the Multilocal

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pp. 171-213

In 2005, two rumors spread among upper-class Egyptians regarding Cilantro, the fastest-growing coffee chain in Cairo. The first was that it had been bought by Starbucks, and that the Cilantro logo and decor would soon be replaced by the green-and-white mermaid logo that has become globally ubiquitous from Seattle to Paris to Dubai. The second rumor was that the ...

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pp. 215-218

Everyone grows up global, and everyone does so in locales. There is a tendency in much public discourse everywhere modernity has penetrated to see the traditional as the realm of culture and the modern as wiping culture away, or at least reducing it from its role in organizing shared public realms to a matter of individual psychology. Many of the cosmopolitan Egyptians ...

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Dramatis Personae

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pp. 219-223

Many, many people helped me understand Cairo’s cosmopolitan class. This is a list of the small group that made it into the final text, alphabetically by pseudonym ...


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pp. 225-236


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pp. 237-252


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pp. 253-263

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001955
E-ISBN-10: 0253001951
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356284

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 7 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa