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Title: The common in a compound : morality, ownership, and legality in Cairo's squatted gated community
Author: Simcik Arese, Nicholas Luca
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 7521
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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In Haram City, amidst Egypt's 2011-2013 revolutionary period, two visions of the city in the Global South come together within shared walls. In this private suburban development marketed as affordable housing, aspirational middle class homebuyers embellish properties for privilege and safety. They also come to share grounds with resettled urban poor who transform their surroundings to sustain basic livelihoods. With legality in disarray and under private administration, residents originally from Duweiqa - perhaps Cairo's poorest neighbourhood - claim the right to squat vacant homes, while homebuyers complain of a slum in the gated community. What was only desert in 2005 has since become a forum for vivid public contestation over the relationship between morality, ownership, and order in space - struggles over what ought to be common in a compound. This ethnography explores residents' own legal geographies in relation to property amidst public-private partnership urbanism: how do competing normative discourses draw community lines in the sand, and how are they applied to assert ownership where the scales of 'official' legitimacy have been tipped? In other words: in a city built from scratch amidst a revolution, how is legality invented? Like the compound itself, sections of the thesis are divided into an A-area and a B-area. Shifting from side to side, four papers examine the lives of squatters and then of homeowners and company management acting in their name. Zooming in and out within sides, they depict discourses over moral ownership and then interpret practices asserting a concomitant vision of order. First, in Chapter 4, squatters invoke notions of a moral economy and practical virtue to justify 'informal' ownership claims against perceptions of developer-state corruption. Next, Chapter 5 illustrates how squatters define 'rights' as debt, a notion put into practice by ethical outlaws: the Sayi' - commonly meaning 'down-and-out' or 'bum' - brokers 'rights' to coordinate group ownership claims. Shifting sides, Chapter 6 observes middle class homeowners' aspirations for "internal emigration" to suburbs as part of an incitement to propertied autonomy, and details widespread dialogue over suburban selfhood in relationship to property, self-interest, and conviviality. Lastly, Chapter 7 documents authoritarian private governance of the urban poor that centres on "behavioural training." Free from accountability and operating like a city-state, managers simulate urban law to inculcate subjective norms, evoking both Cairene histories and global policy circulations of poverty management. Towards detailing how notions of ownership and property constitute visions and assertions of urban law, this project combines central themes in ethnographies of Cairo with legal geography on suburbs of the Global North. It therefore interrogates some key topics in urban studies of the Global South (gated communities, affordable housing, public-private partnerships, eviction-resettlement, informality, local governance, and squatting), as Cairo's 'new city' urban poor and middle classes do themselves, through comparative principles and amidst promotion of similar private low-income cities internationally. While presenting a micro-history of one project, it is also offers an alternative account of 2011-2013 revolutionary period, witnessed from the desert developments through which Egyptian leaders habitually promise social progress.
Supervisor: Jeffrey, Craig ; Keith, Michael Sponsor: University of Oxford ; Santander
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Squatters ; Cairo (Egypt)--Social conditions--21st century