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The Cotton Plantation Remembered

The Cotton Plantation Remembered: An Egyptian Family Story

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Cotton Plantation Remembered
    Book Description:

    Cotton made the fortune of the Fuuda family, Egyptian landed gentry with peasant origins, during the second part of the nineteenth century. This story, narrated and photographed by a family member who has researched and documented various aspects of her own history, goes well beyond the family photo album to become an attempt to convey how cotton, as the main catalyst and creator of wealth, produced by the beginning of the twentieth century two entirely separate worlds: one privileged and free, the other surviving at a level of bare subsistence, and indentured. The construction of lavish mansions in the Nile Delta countryside and the landowners’ adoption of European lifestyles are juxtaposed visually with the former laborers’ camp of the permanent workers, which became a village (‘izba), and then an urbanized settlement. The story is retold from the perspective of both the landowners and the former workers who were tied to the ‘izba. The book includes family photo albums, photographs of political campaigns and of banquets in the countryside, documents and accounting books, modern portraits of the peasants, and pictures of daily life in the village today. This is a story that fuses the personal and emotional with the scholar’s detached ethnographic reporting—a truly fascinating, informative, and colorful view of life on both sides of a uniquely Egyptian socio-economic institution, and a vanished world: the cotton estate.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-369-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-5)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 6-7)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 9-12)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Therapeutic Photography
    (pp. 15-51)

    I would like to start with two quotations from a favorite work of Susan Sontag,On Photography,that will tell much about my personal relationship with this medium. The two following quotes were a disturbing and yet genuine revelation to me. In fact, they confronted me with my unconscious doings with the camera:

    There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera.¹

    Photography extends the eighteenth-century literati’s discovery of the beauty of ruins into a genuinely popular taste. And it extends that beauty beyond the romantics’ ruins, such as those glamorous forms of decrepitude photographed by Laughlin, to...

  5. CHAPTER TWO In the Beginning There Was Cotton
    (pp. 53-107)

    I must have been fifteen years old when, immediately after my grandfather’s death, I visited theda’ira,my family’s village estate, for the first time in many years. This must have been in the midseventies. When I wandered around the fields, always escorted by one of theghafirs(guards and night watchmen) and a clerk, a peasant riding his donkey approached me from afar. As we drew closer on the unpaved path that crossed the fields, he immediately got down off his donkey and turned his back to me, bending his head so that his eyes were fixed on the...

  6. CHAPTER THREE A‘yans, ‘Umdas: Getting Down to Wealth
    (pp. 109-147)

    Whether the narrative I am about to relate is authentic is of no real significance. My intention is to reconstruct the way in which a family’s collective memory reinvents its genealogy as a form of denial of a turbulent past of feuds and hatred. This imagined past is obviously tied to disputes over land and property, and jealousies among siblings. Much of what follows reveals how typical this story is of the emerging culture of thea ‘yanlandowners andzawat(ruling bureaucratic elites) during the late nineteenth century.

    The story circulated by elderly family members is that the Fuuda...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Organization of Labor
    (pp. 149-203)

    On July 31, 1937, the main account book of debits and credits, titled “mulhaq yawmiyat hisabat al-khasm wa-l-idafat,” recorded the transactions of June 30, 1937, among which was payment for a kennel for the dogs to be built (most likely in the garden) by a laborer, who was paid five hundred milliemes (that is, fifty piasters). These dogs were no drawing-room pets—a confirmation of how, in the collectivememory,no peasant was allowed to enter themuntazah(garden) without the permission of the overseer and the servants. The Arabic word muntazah encompasses the meaning of a leisure area (or...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Violence and Banditry
    (pp. 205-231)

    Ashqiya’,¹⁰¹qutta ‘ turuq, shiyukh mansar;all these terms for bandits and brigands are still used today in the countryside. In the modern history of rural Egypt, bandits were essential actors in resisting abusive centralized authority. Resistance to paying the rent or delivering the yield; theft, killings, and insurrection by outlawed peasants (who were then elevated to the status of ‘heroes’ and ‘fighters for justice’ in their local communities) are nevertheless a universal trait of peasantry. The elective affinity of banditry in numerous peasant societies has been remarkably contextualized by Eric Hobsbawm’s distinguished workBandits.The legendary rebel Adham al-Sharqawi...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Vanished ‘Izba: An ‘Ashwa’iya Is Born
    (pp. 233-275)

    Mustafa Fuuda passed away in 1975. This date is critical to grasp how swift was the countdown that led to the withering away of the hierarchical order of theda’ira–’izbasystem, which was followed by a complete metamorphosis of the village. Personally, I sensed a marked change with the sudden disappearance of the wonderful eucalyptus trees that surrounded the lanes, the roads, and the fields. The landscape of the village was immediately affected by my aunt’s husband taking over the administration of her land. A couple of years after Mustafa’s death, he felled almost all the huge old eucalyptus...

  10. Postscript: After January 25, 2011
    (pp. 276-278)

    On first impression, it might appear that the January 25 revolution has not reached our village. In reality, the revolution did indirectly influence the countryside. When I returned after the revolution, a large group of men came to talk to me and ask what it was like to experience the protests in Tahrir Square. They proudly said that they created their own village defense committee and that they had protected the da’ira house like their own. I was told that a few young men from the neighboring village of al-‘Azab were in Tahrir Square, but none from our village. Even...

  11. Glossary
    (pp. 280-280)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 281-284)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-288)
  14. Index
    (pp. 289-296)