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Directions of Change in Rural Egypt

Directions of Change in Rural Egypt

Nicholas S. Hopkins
Kirsten Westergaard
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 412
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  • Book Info
    Directions of Change in Rural Egypt
    Book Description:

    This volume based on recent fieldwork by distinguished specialists includes information on the changing economic situation in the countryside, particularly after the ‘owners and tenants’ law of 1992. Along with the effects of structural adjustment on agriculture, marketing, and rural life, several chapters address the declining trend of rural Egyptians to emigrate. Other chapters examine changes in consumption patterns and health, various rural social processes and the ‘new lands’ being reclaimed in Egypt’s desert areas, representations of the rural population in the media and in statistics, and their own changing self-image. What emerges is a picture of a rural Egypt that is full of life, dramatically evolving, and treading a delicate line between progress and impoverishment. Although nothing is typical of rural Egypt, these papers provide a revealing account of the struggles and rewards that characterize the Egyptian countryside today. Contributors: Mohamed Hassan Abdel Aal, Lila Abu-Lughod, Soraya Altorki, Kamran Asdar Ali, Kirsten Haugaard Bach, Ray Bush, Donald Cole, Nicholas Hopkins, François Ireton, Sohair Mehanna, Günter Meyer, Timothy Mitchell, Mohamed M. Mohieddin, Detlef Müller-Mahn, Hans-Christian Korsholm Nielsen, Malak Rouchdy, Reem Saad, Hania Sholkamy, James Toth, Kirsten Westergaard, Peter Winch, Ahmed Zayed.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-253-9
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Weights and Measures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Directions of Change in Rural Egypt
    (pp. xv-xxxii)

    This collection of studies deals with the directions of change in rural Egypt. At the end of the twentieth century, these changes appear as the culmination of a long process of transformation, and they announce probable trends for the beginning of the twenty-first century. We refer to directions of change because change appears to be moving in more than one direction, and the papers in this book see some of these directions differently. There are changes in the life chances of rural people, and in their livelihood. Changes are implied in the transition from a centrally planned to a market...

  7. Part I The Political Economy of Rural Egypt

    • Chapter 1 The Market’s Place
      (pp. 3-24)

      The dominant theme in the description of the rural Third World at the close of the twentieth century remains the story of its capitalist transformation. The theme is exemplified in rural Egypt, where the reform and removal of state controls through the program known as structural adjustment is intended to turn the land and its produce into market commodities and remake the countryside for the twenty-first century as a fully capitalist economy. There are several ways to critique this story of capitalism’s advance. In the case of Egypt one can question how seriously some of the market reforms have been...

    • Chapter 2 The Evolution of Agrarian Structures in Egypt: Regional Patterns of Change in Farm Size
      (pp. 25-50)

      Since the beginning of the 1960s, the share of the active agricultural population in the active rural population has noticeably declined. There has been, simultaneously, a diversification and a growth of non-agricultural activities in the countryside, and an increase in the number of working rural residents with jobs in town or abroad. While the active rural population increased, the number of males (six years of age and above) working in agriculture has been constant for the last thirty-five years. In 1960, 3.82 million, or 81 percent, of a total active male rural population of 4.72 million, were engaged in agriculture....

    • Chapter 3 Beating Plowshares into Swords: The Relocation of Rural Egyptian Workers and their Discontent
      (pp. 51-72)

      One of the most commonly examined sectors of the Egyptian economy is agriculture. And one of the most thoroughly discussed issues in the economic literature on rural Egypt is determining the exact percentage of surplus or redundant labor. Ever since Wendell Cleland first estimated (1936:35), during the height of the Great Depression, that as many as 80 percent of all workers in the Egyptian countryside were chronically unemployed or underemployed, and therefore constituted a large mass of expendable surplus labor, numerous neo-Malthusian economists have either raised or lowered this single percentage. But in applying a ‘marginalist’ model of economic efficiency,...

    • Chapter 4 Facing Structural Adjustment: Strategies of Peasants, the State, and the International Financial Institutions
      (pp. 73-96)
      RAY BUSH

      The Egyptian peasantry has been treated as passive and malleable by state officials throughout the twentieth century. The Government of Egypt (GOE) and officials of the international financial institutions (IFIs) have operated with very limited views of what constitutes agricultural modernization. Yet the state has failed to sustain economic and political development premised on the extraction of rural surplus. The reasons for that failure derive both from the inefficiency of state intervention and from the vibrancy and coping mechanisms of farmers (Brown 1990; Kazemi and Waterbury 1991).

      Egyptian agriculture and farmers are now nevertheless at a turning point which has...

  8. Part II Cultural Representation:: Identity

    • Chapter 5 Hegemony in the Periphery: Community and Exclusion in an Upper Egyptian Village
      (pp. 99-116)

      This paper attempts to describe and characterize aspects of social organization that affect and inform different modes of communal and collective action in an Upper Egyptian village. In particular, I wish to stress the fact that the idea of ‘community,’ which is so central to both anthropological and development discourse, has no local equivalent. Rather than ‘community,’ we find various forms of collective identity which, in turn, correspond to different forms of collective action. The place that ‘the village’ and ‘the community’ (and of course the village community) have occupied in both anthropological and development literature has tended to obscure...

    • Chapter 6 The Northwest Coast: A Part of Rural Egypt?
      (pp. 117-130)

      During the course of joint field work in 1986 on change and development in Saudi Arabia (Altorki and Cole 1989), a university-educated man in his late twenties questioned one of us as to whether we considered his community, ‘Unayzah, to be a village or a city. Neither of us had any doubt about ‘Unayzah’s status as an urban community. It had an estimated population of seventy thousand, was the capital of a local emirate, and had a largesuqthat served the community and a wide hinterland, as well as numerous government offices and schools, banks, clinics, hospitals, and so...

  9. Part III Cultural Representation:: Consumption

    • Chapter 7 Television and the Virtues of Education: Upper Egyptian Encounters with State Culture
      (pp. 133-152)

      In 1997, first on Nile TV, the new satellite channel, and several months later on the main government channel, a dramatic serial called “Dream of the Southerner”(Hilm al-janubi)was broadcast. The opening episodes, set in and around Luxor, reproduced common images of rural Upper Egyptians(Sa‘idis).There were violent and dumb peasants, some who refused to pay the rent for the land they were farming, and others who were loyal henchmen of important men. There was a wealthy but illiterate local man who had worked in tourism but had become rich by digging beneath his house and unearthing Pharaonic...

    • Chapter 8 Conflict or Cooperation: Changing Gender Roles in Rural Egyptian Households
      (pp. 153-170)

      This paper explores how changing landholding patterns, recent history of male out-migration, removal of food and agricultural subsidies, and high unemployment rates are experienced by women and men in rural Egypt. I will further consider how women adjust to the changing social and economic conditions reflected in the volatile male employment market. Based on field work in a village in Lower Egypt, this article will finally suggest ways to rethink gender relations and the domestic sphere in rural Egypt.¹

      Most studies take the unequal gender relations as a given, seldom questioning how they are maintained, perpetuated, or changed in relation...

    • Chapter 9 The Vision of a Better Life: New Patterns of Consumption and Changed Social Relations
      (pp. 171-188)

      Consumption practices in rural Egypt, as well as in many other parts of the world, have changed radically during the 1980s and 1990s. This paper describes and discusses change processes in a village in Sharqiya governorate over the ten-year period from 1983 to 1993. It is based on findings from three field work periods, supplemented by shorter visits in the village.

      I argue that new opportunities for money income and new patterns of consumption since the mid-1970s have affected the division of labor and social relations in the village by encouraging a more individualistic direction, compared to the previous more...

  10. Part IV Health

    • Chapter 10 Being Sickly or Eating Well: The Conceptualization of Health and Ill-Health in an Upper Egyptian Village
      (pp. 191-206)

      This paper addresses the definition of children’s health and well-being as well as that of ill-health and its causation within the parameters of village relationships and resources in rural Upper Egypt.¹ The study establishes the relationship between everyday processes, experiences, and values which color and shape villagers’ social, economic, and political lives as well as their concerns, conceptualizations, and experiences of their own and their children’s health and ill-health. In particular, I address two concepts here, that ofbatlan,‘being sickly,’ and that of good health as it is linked to diet.

      In the village of Rihan,² modern medicine coexists...

    • Chapter 11 Health Units in Rural Egypt: At the Forefront of Health Improvement or Anachronisms?
      (pp. 207-222)

      When the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and other international organizations were established at the end of World War II, the most important causes of morbidity and mortality in countries such as Egypt were malnutrition and acute infectious diseases affecting young children, such as measles, dehydrating diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. It was natural therefore that ministries of health, international organizations, and bilateral donors chose to target these problems, first with vertical disease eradication program of the 1950s and 1960s, followed by the primary health care and child survival programs from the 1970s to the present day (Habicht 1987; Walt 1993). The...

  11. Part V Village Histories

    • Chapter 12 Change and Continuity in the Village of Batra: Family Strategies
      (pp. 225-244)

      It is difficult to grasp the contemporary historical development of agrarian relations in rural Egypt given the complexity of the socioeconomic and political relations they entail in general, and the regional specificity that shapes them at the micro level. Moreover, the lack of detailed documentation at the village and national levels, based upon written and oral sources, renders the task even more complicated.

      Not being myself a historian, but concerned with the process of socioeconomic diversification and differentiation in the village of Batra¹ in the context of the changing national economic policies of the 1980s, I have tried to reconstruct...

    • Chapter 13 Spaces of Poverty: The Geography of Social Change in Rural Egypt
      (pp. 245-266)

      Egypt’s villages are changing rapidly, both in their physical appearance and the socioeconomic conditions of their inhabitants. The rural settlements in the Nile Valley have grown to be three or four times as large as they were in the 1950s. During the same period, their material substance has been renewed and changed to a great degree, and life in the village has become more and more influenced by urban examples. Yet, new houses do not necessarily mean that the conditions of life in the village have improved for everyone. From the perspective of social geography, the deterioration of the conditions...

  12. Part VI Development:: The Role of the Market and Development Projects

    • Chapter 14 Farmers and Cooperatives in the Era of Structural Adjustment
      (pp. 269-296)

      Since the inception of the first agricultural cooperative society in 1910, Egyptian agricultural cooperatives and farmers alike have been sailing in unpredictable political waters. Recent striking changes include the implications of the structural adjustment policies (ERSAP) and the liberalization laws.

      A review of. the agricultural cooperative movement in Egypt shows clearly that cooperatives started as a popular movement and ended up as a parastatal instrument. Cooperatives passed through a period of over-promotion, but have been almost completely neglected in recent years. Government promotion, farmers’ perceptions of the cooperatives, and the nature of the power structure of the Egyptian village are...

    • Chapter 15 Rural Periodic Markets in Egypt
      (pp. 297-312)

      Periodic markets have been and continue to be a main feature of major Middle Eastern cities, towns, and villages. There is a wide variety of such markets. Some are annual, such as those associated with religious festivals commemorating Muslim sheikhs or Christian saints. Other markets are more frequently held, being held monthly, biweekly, weekly, and even twice or three times weekly.

      The theatrical work of the Egyptian poet Salah Jahin,al-Layla al-kabira—’the big night’—expresses the interrelation between annual markets and religious occasions very vividly. In fact, pilgrimage to Mecca itself is considered to be both a religious and...

    • Chapter 16 Agro-pastoralism and Development in Egypt’s Northwest Coast
      (pp. 313-330)

      “Smuggling became the source of wealth [in the 1960s],” an elderly ‘aqila, ‘wise man,’ from the Awlad ‘Ali Bedouin told us in al-Qasr village, not far from the Mediterranean coastal town of Marsa Matruh, and about halfway between Alexandria and the Egyptian-Libyan border. More recently, since around 1985, sales of beach front land for summer holiday uses have become the more obvious source of riches in the area of Egypt’s northwest coast—for a few local Bedouin businesspeople and for more numerous investors and speculators from outside the region, mainly Egypt’s Nile Valley. Meanwhile, the lion’s share of Egypt’s public...

    • Chapter 17 Economic Changes in the Newly Reclaimed Lands: From State Farms to Small Holdings and Private Agricultural Enterprises
      (pp. 331-350)

      Since the end of the 1970s, the most proclaimed goal of Egyptian agricultural policy has been the massive expansion of agricultural areas under cultivation. In 1978, in reaction to the fast increase in food imports, President Anwar al-Sadat proclaimed the so-called ‘Green Revolution’ with the aim of developing 1.2 million hectares of new agricultural land before the end of the century. This corresponds to an area approximately half the size of the old irrigated area of the Nile Valley and the Delta.

      It was expected that economic liberalization measures would lead to another increase in agricultural production in the newly...

  13. Part VII Dispute Settlement:: Society and Politics

    • Chapter 18 Men of Authority-Documents of Authority: Notes on Customary Law in Upper Egypt
      (pp. 353-368)

      Descriptions of traditional courts and customary law(‘urf)in the Middle East are most commonly found under headings such as ‘Bedouin justice’ or ‘Bedouin law,’¹ and describe conditions among the Bedouins of the desert; while studies concerned with the subject among sedentary people² and, in particular, among the rural population of the Nile Valley, are very rare.³

      This paper is a preliminary excursion into this field, based on a collection of documents obtained during ethnographic field research carried out in the district of Idfu, Aswan governorate, Upper Egypt in the 1990s. I focus on how the authority of such documents...

    • Chapter 19 Culture and the Mediation of Power in an Egyptian Village
      (pp. 369-386)

      Studies on the politics of Egyptian peasants can be classified into three categories. The first category of studies was clearly influenced by modernization theory and concentrated on the ‘passing’ of traditional peasant society into a modem one and, therefore, the replacement of the old traditional leadership with a modem educated one (Ghayth 1959; Awda 1971). A more developed version of this category focused on the wider formative context of peasant society and politics, with special reference to the process of political mobilization of peasants (Harik 1974), and the rise of a new middle class (Halpern 1963), or a second stratum...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 387-388)
  15. Index
    (pp. 389-394)