Nada El-Kouny

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Rutgers U.

Grant number

Gr. 9277

Approve Date

April 18, 2016

Project Title

El-Kouny, Nada, Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ - To aid research on 'Infrastructure, Sovereignty, and Collective Action in Rural Egypt,' supervised by Dr. Becky L. Schulthies

This dissertation project aims to illuminate the role of infrastructure in shaping collective mobilization and the instantiation of sovereignty and rights outside of Egypt’s city centers. By moving away from urban public discourse, this project will investigate unexplored material-affective mobilization processes in an Egyptian village in the Nile Delta Governorate of Al-Beheira with a history of contestations surrounding state infrastructure construction and failures. The village was former autonomous family estate land under the Ottoman Empire and British Protectorate rule of Egypt that later became collectivized under the first independent government in the 1950’s of Gamal Abdel-Nasser as part of a land tenure redistribution push. Three decades later however, Egypt under presidents Anwar Al-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak pushed through economic liberalization policies that resulted in a direct reversal of the agricultural land ownership system. The contestations in the village between landowning elites, state bodies, and the fellahin (peasantry) over land and infrastructure projects like roads, irrigations canals, and electric plants, serve as a central node through which to study state policies and collective mobilization in response to these contested and preferential policies. Infrastructure in my project denotes the relational process between the material world of roads, buildings, and funding networks, to the immaterial world of experience, communicative practices and social networks. By studying a rurally-based community’s contesting sovereignties, my research seeks to decentralize urban centers of control and narrative production that was most evident with the January 25 Revolution. Tahrir Square, both spatially and ideologically, became the site of the January 25 Revolution, erasing the historical process through which rural communities, like the Al-Beheira village, contributed to the Revolution. My research therefore attempts to illuminate how the experiences and tactics generated outside of the city centers contributed, shaped, and negotiated the Revolution and the process leading up to it.