Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology and International Studies, University of Richmond

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Stanford University
Islam and the Gendered Politics of Youth in Contemporary Egypt

In recent years, “youth” have emerged as a major social force in new ways in contemporary Egypt. From the state apparatus to religious institutions, to a network of transnational and non-governmental organizations, youth is an ever-expanding domain for competing regimes of power aimed at the normalization of young “lumpen” (Wickham 2002) Egyptians viewed, by some, as a potential socio-political hazard. I research the subtle and complex slippages between “youth at risk” and “youth as a risk” in Egypt from a historical and anthropological perspective. I ask: How are “youth” and “danger” associated with each other in particular socio-political circumstances? In Egypt, danger can take on various forms and embodiments including criminality, unemployment, immorality or "radical" Islam. How and why are youth both “threatened” and “threatening” to the established order? It is this doubling or ambiguous threat and promise associated with “youth” and its social significations in Egypt that this project seeks to understand. I seek to denaturalize the category youth through a historical re-examination of its naturalized boundaries in the context of Egypt. I explore the social dynamics through which specific kinds of youth are produced. I ask how economic circumstances, the family, gender and institutions play a vital role in the emergence of new discourses on youth following Sadat’s open-door (infitah) policies established in the early 1970’s and the successive Islamization or religious radicalization of Egypt’s public domain. Historians of Egypt have shown how strategic demography and the “youth threat” have constituted an ineluctable concern for colonizing powers since the 19th century. This research asks what a robust focus on youth at this moment enables, and for whom. How do current concerns and interventions into youth differ from those of the colonial past?