Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Lecturer, History, Tel Aviv University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, New York University (NYU)
Temporality, Personhood and the Techno-Political Making of Egyptian Society, 1869-1939

Comparing the locations of news articles from al-Ahram, the first private Egyptian paper, with a list of railway destinations in 1876 reveals a remarkable overlap. Within Egypt, the newspaper covered only places that were connected to the railroad. In other words, the “Egypt” that the newspaper (re) presented was that of the railway map. The dissertation-project for which I seek an SSRC-IDRF Fellowship will, like the above exercise, re-fuse the “social” and “political” (which newspapers supposedly reflect and shape) with technologies of transportation and communication that have so far been absent from the historiographical picture. While many historians label their work "social history," very few studies actually deal with the appearance of "society" in historically specific settings. This dissertation explores this question in Egypt, a key point of passing-through to India, between 1869 and 1939. Egypt's location amplified the importance of transportation, communication and other technological dimensions of the encounter between Egyptians and the British. In this colonial setting, the dissertation examines how three time-regulating technologies – the railway, telegraphy and the periodical press – introduced a new synchronicity and helped shape not only how Egyptians experienced time, but also what they came to call "Egypt" and "Egyptian society". Specifically, the project traces the emergence of novel notions such as al-Gumhur ("the public") and al-Mugtama' ("society"), alongside these new interfacing webs of transportation, communication and representation. This dissertation thus uniquely examines the relations between technology, timekeeping practices and distinctive types of horizontal connectedness which have so far been uncritically taken for granted as generic manifestations of a preexisting "social sphere".