Dissertation Title: "A City on the Edge: Aspiration, Anxiety Management, and the Politics of Urban Planning in Cairo"
Dissertation Committee: Bob Vitalis, Anne Norton, and Jillian Schwedler, CUNY-Hunter
My dissertation examines the politics of city planning and city-building, particularly the political processes, aspirations, and anxieties that surround questions of urban form. It focuses specifically on state attempts to exert control over the form and identity of a city through planning exercises and large-scale building projects: the building of massive satellite towns in the desert, the creation and refurbishment of iconic spaces, attempts to halt the growth of slums, and the implementation of strategic master plans. The dissertation reads these efforts as both technical and broadly constitutive political projects, arguing that what is at stake in the execution (or failed execution) of complex technical and governance programs is ultimately a question of identity. Drawing on 21 months of extensive fieldwork in Egypt; analysis of official documents, technical reports and studies, press coverage, advertising campaigns; observation at project sites; and in-depth interviews with state officials, consultants, developers, academics, architects, engineers, and activists, I argue that Cairo's growth, and the state's efforts to shape it in a way that reflect elite notions of what a globalized city should be - notably a city that attracts attention and investment - are an instance of intense contestation and anxiety over Egyptian identity and Egypt's place in the world. The dissertation closes with comparisons to cities in other developing countries that face similar pressures on urban form and political identity arising from the very fast growth of cities, and the rush for foreign investment and prestige.