Institutt for sosialantropologi

The Elusive Egyptian State. An anthropological study of the state, power relations and protests in recyclers' community in the Manshiet Nasser slum in Cairo


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2014.

By Fatima Fowsi Al-Ali
Supervisor: Associate Professor Kjetil Fosshagen

Right after the 2011 Egyptian revolution, protests against NGOs in a recyclers’ community in Cairo occurred. In this thesis, I explore why the protests occurred by contextualising the protests within the history of the Egyptian state, with an emphasis of the political and financial repercussions the neoliberal policy had in Egypt since the 1970s.

I argue that the neoliberal policy has directly and indirectly led to the emergence of an oligarchic political elite at the macro-level in the state and in the micro-level of communities such as the recyclers’ community. The state is also elusively present in the recyclers’ community through patronage relations with three main institutions, among them NGOs, that are a part of the oligarchic political elite.

War machine dynamics and state dynamics are at play in the patronage relations, as well as in the personalised social relations among the people the recyclers’ community. The three main institutions produce to some extent state effects, and therefore the state is elusively present in the recyclers’ community by having decentered state functions, such as education, healthcare, administration and political control and stability, to the three main institutions in the recyclers’ community. The boundary between the state and society is therefore complicated and complex, and therefore the protests in the recyclers’ community can be perceived as targeting the state indirectly.