Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Social Sciences, Western Connecticut State University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center
Lawmindedness and Social Mobility in Egypt

This ethnographic study will focus on Egypt’s new middle class in Port Said, in order to discern how practices and significations of the law, or what I term ‘law-mindedness,’ shape social identity. I propose that the particular ways in which individuals strategically use or avoid the law expresses, in subtle but strategic gradations, a point of view not only toward the legal system but also towards other people. In this way, the law offers a set of terms, choices, and procedures for linking individuals in commonality or marking them as different, and hence is a means for social differentiation. My study looks at law and differentiation in Port Said, a rapidly developing transit hub on Egypt’s northeast coast that is historically diverse and offers an economic climate conducive to social mobility. I intend to map the subtle ways in which law permeates social relations in this context by conducting 12 months of ethnographic research in a Port Said neighborhood, collecting data through interviews and participant-observation. I will also gather historical data on changes in the law and court use in order to place my research in temporal context. I intend to pay particular attention to legal matters relating to status, labor and contractual processes, and civil litigation, although the specific concerns and practices of community members will shape the content of my analysis. This research is intended to build upon the work of Austin Sarat, Robert Cover, and others who have analyzed the complex relationship between law and social relations, and is also influenced by debates about modern subjectivity and law in the Middle East.