Graduate Colloquium: "Crumbling Grandeur, Global Dreams, and Colonial Legacies in Downtown Cairo"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 9:30am
Meyerson G-12

Please join us for the next Urban Studies Graduate Student colloquium, with coffee, croissants and conversation on Tuesday March 19, 9:30-11am, in the Office of the Institute of Urban Research, Meyerson Hall G-12. The series provides a way for graduate students who are or have been a part of the Urban Studies Certificate program to come together to share their work.

Author:  Jon Argaman, Political Science

Discussant: Professor Lisa Mitchell, South Asia Studies

In an effort to re-brand Cairo's elegant, decaying colonial-era Central Business District as a global downtown – a center of commerce, leisure, and style that would attract investors and international attention to Cairo – the Mubarak-era Egyptian government sponsored a series of urban upgrade schemes, real estate ventures, and architectural design contests to re-imagine some of downtown's most iconic spaces. Those projects, many of them controversial, are now shelved, some halted by the 2011 uprising, while others had stalled previously.  This was not the first moment in which officials and elites intended downtown Cairo to be an engine for and a showpiece of Egypt's economic and cultural integration with the world abroad: the district was built for just such a purpose in the 19th century, and remained a 'multinational' space until the 1952 revolution.  This paper discusses the intersecting politics of global integration, historical preservation, and city branding that were at stake in plans to remake the district.  It argues that the attempt to build a space attractive to both foreign businessmen and Egyptian elites (but not necessarily the Egyptians who currently live and shop there) brings out crucial tensions about the status of 'foreigner', and Egypt's place among nations.