Connected in Cairo: Growing Up Cosmopolitan in the Modern Middle East takes readers through the lives of the Egyptian upper and upper middle classes as they struggle to forge lives that are at once modern and Egyptian in a world that sees the Middle East as a backward and even dangerous place.
For members of Cairo’s upper classes, cosmopolitanism is a form of social capital, deployed whenever they acquire or consume transnational commodities, or goods that are linked in the popular imagination to other, more “modern” places.
In a series of thickly detailed and carefully contextualized case studies—of Arabic children’s magazines, Pokémon, private schools and popular films, coffee shops and fast-food restaurants I describe the social practices that create class identities. I trace these processes from childhood into adulthood, examining how taste and style intersect with a changing educational system and economic liberalization.
I also reveal how uneasy many cosmopolitan Cairenes are with their new global identities, and describe their efforts to root themselves in the local through religious, nationalist, or linguistic practices.
But Connected in Cairo is not only about Egypt; it uses stories from Egypt to explore localization, the “flip side” of globalization. By localization, I mean the appropriation of commodities, persons, discourses, technologies, and other elements from one place and their integration by people into their social relationships. In this process, these translocal goods, persons, and ideas are transformed by their contextualization. And at the same time, the local contexts themselves are transformed.
Read a review in the International Journal of African Historical Studies