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Global dreams: class, gender and public space in cosmopolitan Cairo
Ahlam 'awlamiyya: al-tabaqa wa al-gender wa al-fada' al-'am fi al-Qahira al-kozmopolitaniyya. Translation Osama al-Ghazouli. Arabic edition Global Dreams. Across Europe, ethnically diverse neighborhoods figure as key sites in racialized public debates that imagine the nation as white and nonwhite citizens as foreign to the body politic. Drawing on research in Antwerp and Amsterdam, we Drawing on research in Antwerp and Amsterdam, we examine how public discourses come to shape the lives of residents in such iconic sites. We propose the notion of ordinary iconic figures as a way to understand these connections.
Ordinary iconic figures represent generic types that populate national narratives and connect the local and the national as well as the individual and larger categories. These figures come into being in public discourses but are taken up beyond the sphere of politics and media. Such ordinary iconic figures offer commonsense frames for understanding urban landscapes, carve out speaking positions, and come to haunt residents' sense of self as iconic shadows.
They thereby help transport the inequalities laid out in public discourses into people's everyday lives. We introduceren het concept van de 'alledaagse iconische figuur' als een manier om deze verbanden te begrijpen.
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- Global Dreams: Class, Gender, and Public Space in Cosmopolitan Cairo?
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Alledaagse iconische figuren representeren algemene types waarmee verhalen over de natie verteld worden. Ze verbinden het lokale en het nationale, het individu en de categorie. Doi: Shifting Solidarities in Volatile Times - - Etnofoor 29 2 : The intersection of race and the criminal justice system has been a longstanding topic of activism, public debate and research in the US context.
In recent years, European countries have also seen a growing social and academic debate In recent years, European countries have also seen a growing social and academic debate about the way racialized minorities are policed. Based on ethnographic research in Amsterdam, this article argues that in order to understand such racialized policing, we have to go beyond a narrow focus on the police itself, and instead examine the broader institutional landscape tasked with security. This institutional landscape is made up of penal and welfare actors who together enact what I call diffuse policing.
Overslaan en naar de inhoud gaan. Anouk de Koning. Radboud University Nijmegen. DutchCulture is generously funded by:. For the lower middle class, the media are important cultural resources that give them access to a world other than their own. A large proportion of the upper class youth have first-hand experience of the west through patterns of regular travel, where as only two per cent of the lower middle class youth I ask have traveled outside of Egypt.
Thus, through the consumption of western media products, particularly movies and sitcoms, the west becomes a familiar part of their everyday cultural repertoires, which they draw upon in the formation of cosmopolitan identities. As twenty-five year old Sameh suggests:. I love watching American movies and not just for the entertainment value. I like to lose myself in the narratives; in the clean streets, the well organized work spaces, the respectable people and the plethora of personal freedoms. These are all things we are lacking in Egypt, although if we implement them here, it will be a much better place to live.
People constantly criticize the West for its excessive freedom and moral corruption, but fail to look at all the positive ideologies and values we can learn from them. Egypt does have many rich resources and thus the potential to be a great country. We just need to focus more on increasing personal freedom and respect. By acting as windows that expose young lower middle class Egyptians to an array of alternative cultures and lifestyles, therefore, the media are allowing individuals to aspire towards cultural change; to remap the boundaries that maintain their sense of identity in a way they find more gratifying.
Thus, rather than arguing that global media are weakening local identities, it could be more appropriate to claim that the media are offering individuals an important resource from which to define and construct their sense of identity. As participants in this study demonstrate, in a situation where Egyptian youth have a strong attitude of self criticism toward their national culture, their daily exposure to transnational television has allowed them to discover new ways and new sources for negotiating the content that compromises their identity.
As mentioned previously, a desire to engage with specific western discourses is not an end in itself, but a means through which they can re-imagine the local in a way which makes it more acceptable and satisfying. This supports Martin-Barbero's mediation approach, which suggests that interaction with the mass media is not a passive process, because people are able to constantly re-elaborate, reinterpret, and transform messages they are exposed to. The media, therefore, are intrinsic to everyday life and influence it even in the instances where they are not being directly consumed.
A very important example of the way audiences are able to constantly elaborate, reinterpret and transform messages they are exposed to in the media, is demonstrated in the increasing popularity of regional, or specifically Turkish media. Seventy per cent of females in the lower middle class groups declare that they are regular fans of Turkish serials, specifically the one named Noor. The plot of this serial focuses on a romantic love story, including the struggles and tribulations, between Mohannad and his independent fashion designer wife, Noor.
Sami discusses the increasing importance of these Turkish serials in Egyptian homes, and refers to them as a 'social and behavioural phenomenon, worthy of study'. When I ask these females during the focus group sessions why this serial is so popular, it seems that the marital relationship between the main actor and actress is the factor of attraction. Specifically, the way the lead actor treats his wife with so much compassion, love and respect is a point of great admiration. The words of Amany, a twenty two year old female demonstrate this:. Mohannad is just so gentle with Noor, and always takes in to consideration how she's feeling and what she wants.
Even when he does upset her, he makes a great effort to apologize and show her how much he regrets it. Generally, however, he is such a gentleman with her, always buying her presents, hugging her, saying nice things and just being really nice. It appears that Turkish serials have become an important catalyst allowing these females to negotiate key gender roles that affect their everyday lives. The married females of the group tell me how such story lines have opened their eyes to aspects that they feel are missing from their own relationships such as romance and respect.
Thus, they have become an important medium through which they have aspired to change and perfect these relationships. It is important to note, nevertheless, that Egypt is one of the most important and avid producers of drama serials across the Middle East. Thus, why is it that audiences have left their own successful local productions, preferring that the negotiation of everyday familial and marital relations be performed through these Turkish serials?
Importantly, Egypt has a long history with Turkey, which ruled the country for almost years, and so until this day, Egyptians have a cultural fondness towards the Turks. Additionally, located in Europe yet being a Muslim country, Turkey is often regarded as an important cultural mediator; one strategically positioned between West and East.
Often, the cultural and religious expanse that exists between Egypt and the west makes comparison between the lives of these young Egyptian audiences and the on-screen characters of western media unrealistic. The plots, characters and sets of western serials may be culturally alien to the everyday realities of these lower class viewers. Nevertheless, the proximity of Turkey's culture to Egypt, which is often perceived to be more Middle Eastern than European, and particularly their sharing of one religion, often makes the story lines much more accessible, and much more relevant to their own daily lives and concerns.
Taking this in to consideration, however, I am quite surprised when I watch this Turkish serial for myself. Drinking alcohol, extramarital relationships and on-screen kissing are common features of these serials; the same features which are usually condemned in American media. Why is that that they are accepted in a different context? The answer seems to lie once again with Islam: these characters may drink or engage in unlawful relationships, but at the end of the day, they are Muslims just like them.
Frames with Quranic verses hung on the walls of the characters' homes, the frequent appearance of mosques in the streets, some of the female characters wearing the headscarf and the occasional character praying, seem to make up for some of the morally unacceptable behavior that occurs. As twenty-two year old Amna says:. These Turkish characters are Western in many ways: they drink and have relationships outside of marriage and go to nightclubs, but at the end of the day they are still Muslims. We all make mistakes, but eventually we return to God, and that does happen in this serial.
For instance, whenever the characters have a major crisis such as someone in hospital, they turn to God, speaking to Him and praying that things go well. It appears, therefore, that these Turkish serials help their viewers to push the boundaries of what is acceptable.
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What the viewers may find intolerable in the context of a western or American program, they hardly notice in these Turkish serials as it takes place within a more respectable Islamic framework. Yes, the behavior of the characters does not always respect the boundaries of Islamic morality, but their acceptance that they are Muslims and that their ultimate fate is in the hands of Allah, appears to compensate for this.
Thus, it seems that the global has become indigenized through the regional, and this is evident in the way characters in the Turkish serial have become Arabic personalities. For instance, the serial is translated through the dubbed voices of Arabic actors, while all of the characters are given Arabic names. The identities of the real Turkish actors have become irrelevant as they are now considered to be Arab figures known by their Arabic names of 'Mohannad' and 'Noor'.
Thus through such techniques, the global has been brought closer to home, and by being enveloped within local religious repertoires, it has become accepted and become a part of the cosmopolitan vision integrated into the everyday lives of these audiences. Following on from the above, as well as the centrality of western films and Turkish serials to their media consumption schedules, Islamic television channels, unsurprisingly, attract much popularity.
Eighty-two percent of the sample of people I ask respond that they regularly watch the two Islamic channels Iqraa and Al-Nass, while 70 per cent of them confirm that religious channels and programs are a very important part of their media consumption schedules. In response to their exclusion from the upscale and elite networks of Cairo, lower middle class youth claim that becoming a worldly and well informed global citizen is not about disconnecting oneself form the local and being seen in particular elite places, but about the way one draws on aspects of the global to improve and rework their image as an Egyptian Muslim.
In this context, through the consumption of Islamic media, they are able to re-imagine themselves as part of a transnational religious Islamic network where individuals are judged according to religious strength and piety, and not on the make of their jeans or style of their hair. Through particular programs, especially ones where a religious scholar engages in a live discussion with a young studio audience, these young Cairenes feel connected to like-minded Islamic youth cultures across the globe. Through these types of programs they are able to gain an insight into how young Muslims are living worldwide, and how they are able to maintain a balance between their religion and global discourses on a daily basis.
During a participant observation session, a group of girls are discussing their admiration for the Islamic televangelist Amr Khaled and his ability to connect Muslims everywhere. They refer to how he always comes up with new projects and encourages people everywhere, even those living in the west, to take part in any way they can. Thus young Muslims across the globe, which the informants refer to as their 'brothers' and 'sisters' in Islam, come together with a purpose and thus feel that they are achieving something for God and for Islam.
An important attribute of Khaled is that he is able to link fundamental Islamic teachings with modern processes. By maintaining a sensible balance he is able to encourage youth to combine being a pious Muslim with being a modern global citizen. A very telling argument is given by twenty year old Amal:. Yes we like to watch American movies and serials as they are entertaining, and also allow us to see a world of order, cleanliness and organization which is missing from our everyday reality.
This type of media is an important resource as we can learn a lot from them. But Islamic media are also very important as many of us depend on them for our religious knowledge, and thus they help us form a framework for what's right and what's wrong, and they are the basis from which we make everyday choices and interact with global discourses. According to Sassen, the uneven nature of the global grid of cities, and the socio-economic polarization which characterizes them, has led to the formation of new transnational connections which usually cut across national boundaries.
In a similar light, through their media consumption practices, lower middle class youth in Cairo are engaged in distant religious transnational connections which are surpassing immediate national and urban frontiers. As I argued at the beginning of this paper in the discussion on the dichotomy between space and place, the way individuals experience everyday life in the city can plays an important role in how they construct and chose to engage in particular cultural spaces of imagination and belonging. In this light, although these young lower middle class Egyptians feel marginalized and ejected from the more elite urban youth cultures existing adjacent to them, through the consumption of Islamic media they are able to connect themselves to more inclusive transnational Islamic networks elsewhere.
Thus, despite feeling disconnected from the city, they are able to engage in more virtual, yet symbolically meaningful connections. Thus as much as we need to focus on the divisions created by the drawing of boundaries in contemporary cities, it is also significant to recognize the development of new and often more unpredictable connections, and the role the media play in forging such connections. With transnational media at the heart of these daily experiences, the main question underpinning this paper is not whether identities are hybrid, but about the types of local, class-based formations involved in the negotiation of hybrid cosmopolitanized identities.
By understanding cosmopolitanism as a form of internal heterogeneity, as a way local and global repertoires are taken up in personal strategies and performance, I have attempted to uncover how such repertoires are signifying specific choices, allegiances and modes of belonging De Koning, for young lower middle class Egyptians.
I argued that through an ability to negotiate for themselves a highly heterogeneous cosmopolitanism dependent upon local repertoires particularly religion , yet also drawing on global discourses, the lower middle class are more deserving of the cosmopolitan label. This is evident in the types of urban spaces they chose to socialize in and their media consumption practices.
This is a contrast to the upper middle classes, who, by disconnecting themselves from the local, are imposing very rigid boundaries and thus forming exclusive identities for themselves based on what they perceive to be elite "first world" modernity and standards. Nevertheless, the relationship of lower middle class youth to the west is an ambivalent and dynamic one. Although western modernity is regarded as an important source of progressive principles such as freedom, respect and democracy, it is simultaneously a site of moral corruption.
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By referring to the 'spiritual ignorance' and immorality of the west - its excessive materialism, objectification of women and sexual promiscuity — these lower middle class youth are able to include the west in a backwardness that must be left behind. Hence, they are able to invert western perceptions of the Muslim world as non-modern Deeb, The negotiation of cosmopolitan identities, therefore, is formed on two levels: the moral and the ideological.
Although the ideological level tends to be informed by global repertoires and western-inspired values such as freedom and personal respect, on the level of morality, Islam is the main reference point that dictates important social choices. This confirms an unwillingness and inability by these youth to belong exclusively to one or the other worldviews.
Her research looks at how young Cairenes are developing different mediated versions of a cosmopolitan imagination which are articulated through unique class positionings. Abaza, Mona. Abu-Lughod, Janet. In Josef Gugler. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, Abu-Lughod, Lila. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, Allen, John. Amin, Galal.
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