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Managing Egypt's Poor and the Politics of Benevolence, 1800-1952

Managing Egypt's Poor and the Politics of Benevolence, 1800-1952

Mine Ener
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0rdd
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    Managing Egypt's Poor and the Politics of Benevolence, 1800-1952
    Book Description:

    This richly textured social history recovers the voices and experiences of poor Egyptians--beggars, foundlings, the sick and maimed--giving them a history for the first time. As Mine Ener tells their fascinating stories alongside those of reformers, tourists, politicians, and philanthropists, she explores the economic, political, and colonial context that shaped poverty policy for a century and a half.

    While poverty and poverty relief have been extensively studied in the North American and European contexts, there has been little research done on the issue for the Middle East--and scant comprehensive presentation of the Islamic ethos that has guided charitable action in the region. Drawing on British and Egyptian archival sources, Ener documents transformations in poor relief, changing attitudes toward the public poor, the entrance of new state and private actors in the field of charity, the motivations behind their efforts, and the poor's use of programs created to help them. She also fosters a dialogue between Middle Eastern studies and those who study poverty relief elsewhere by explicitly comparing Egypt's poor relief to policies in Istanbul and also Western Europe, Russia, and North America.

    Heralding a new kind of research into how societies care for the destitute--and into the religious prerogatives that guide them--this book is one of the first in-depth studies of charity and philanthropy in a region whose social problems have never been of greater interest to the West.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4435-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE: FINDING EGYPT’S POOR
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxvii-xxxii)
  6. I BENEVOLENCE, CHARITY, AND PHILANTHROPY
    (pp. 1-25)

    REMARKING ON his travels in the Ottoman Empire in the first decades of the nineteenth century, the Englishman Thomas Thornton described how Islam was imbued with a genuine spirit of piety and noted that as a religion it was best characterized by its acts of public utility.¹ Thornton was impressed by the benevolent works he saw all around him: the fountains that provided clean water to townspeople and villagers, the stately mosques in the capital, Istanbul, and the care and respect that he saw neighbors and strangers express for one another. The sum of all that Thornton noticed was Islamic...

  7. II DISCERNING BETWEEN THE DESERVING AND THE UNDESERVING POOR
    (pp. 26-48)

    WHEN THE SPANIARD Ali Bey toured the al-Azhar Mosque in 1806, he was perplexed to find that its floors were devoid of the beautiful Persian carpets another traveler had described. Instead, he found that the floors were covered with mats. In response to his inquiry as to why the carpets were no longer there, the sheikhs of the mosque informed him that such coverings had never existed. Mats, they noted, were preferable because the vermin of beggars and the poor who slept there could be easily washed off of them.¹

    The Mosque of al-Azhar was not the only place in...

  8. III AMONG THE POOR OF TAKIYYAT TULUN
    (pp. 49-75)

    LADY (LUCIE) DUFF GORDON, a Briton residing in Egypt in the 1860s, had the opportunity to visit the Mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun in November 1862. Her guide during this visit was none other than Joseph Hekekyan, to whom she had been introduced by the British political economist Nassau Senior. As the two approached the mosque, Hekekyan may have given her details of the mosque’s long history—how it had been founded during the ninth century by a Turkish slave soldier in the service of the Abbasids who had been sent to Egypt as this region’s governor, but who had...

  9. IV THE SPECTACLE OF THE POOR
    (pp. 76-98)

    VISITORS TO EGYPT as well as Westerners residing there were struck by how frequently beggars and street peddlers accosted them. In front of Shepheard’s Hotel, and in the fashionable shopping districts of Cairo and Alexandria, and at historic sites such as the pharaonic ruins and mosques, they were met with cries of “baksheesh” from Egyptian children and adults demanding alms. Beggars were not only a nuisance but they also spoiled the very historic sites that Europeans had come to see. In the case of Ahmad ibn Tulun Mosque, European visitors might not have been prepared to be as sympathetic as...

  10. V THE FUTURE OF THE NATION
    (pp. 99-133)

    IN DECEMBER 1910, Dr. Abd al-Aziz Nazmi gave an address to members of the Royal Society in Cairo on the topic of children’s health. Nazmi argued that although caring for the elderly and the poor was an important attribute of any civilized nation, saving the young ensured its future. Saving children, he said, was an act of national defense:

    It is in the interest of everyone, as well as their obligation, to participate in actions to save children and protect the general health, to fight infant mortality which annihilates the nation, and to reduce the number of infirm, invalids, and...

  11. VI CONCLUSION: FROM “THE POOR” TO “POVERTY”
    (pp. 134-144)

    IN HIS ACCOUNT of the reasons behind the establishment of the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1939, its minister, Dr. Ahmed Hussein, noted that Egypt’s social problems could not be left to “haphazard” initiatives and that it was “a supreme duty of the State” to ameliorate the conditions of the poor, raise the standard of living for individuals and families, and ensure social justice for Egypt’s inhabitants. The creation of the Ministry of Social Affairs, however, reflected more than the benevolence of the state. Intended to counter and monitor the activities of potentially political groups (such as the Muslim Brotherhood...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 145-174)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 175-190)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 191-195)