Through a microhistory of a small province in Upper Egypt, this
book investigates the history of five world empires that assumed
hegemony in Qina province over the last five centuries.
Imagined Empires charts modes of subaltern rebellion
against the destructive policies of colonial intruders and
collaborating local elites in the south of Egypt.
Abul-Magd vividly narrates stories of sabotage, banditry, flight,
and massive uprisings of peasants and laborers, to challenge myths
of imperial competence. The book depicts forms of subaltern
discontent against "imagined empires" that failed in achieving
their professed goals and brought about environmental crises to
Qina province. As the book deconstructs myths about early modern
and modern world hegemons, it reveals that imperial modernity and
its market economy altered existing systems of landownership,
irrigation, and trade- leading to such destructive occurrences as
the plague and cholera epidemics.
The book also deconstructs myths in Egyptian historiography,
highlighting the problems of a Cairo-centered idea of the Egyptian
nation-state. The book covers the Ottoman, French, Muhammad Ali's,
and the British informal and formal empires. It alludes to the U.S.
and its failed market economy in Upper Egypt, which partially
resulted in Qina's participation in the 2011 revolution. Imagined
Empires is a timely addition to Middle Eastern and world
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