The Language of Protest in 19th Century Egypt

Episode 449

Popular revolts across the Middle East during the 19th and early 20th century have often been described as nationalist or anti-colonial. But on what basis did people mobilize and what rights were they attempting to assert? In this conversation, Pascale Ghazaleh examines the language of protest, focusing on the actions of peasants and the working class, their understandings of property rights and ownership, and what they say about their political aspirations. She also reflects on the slow process of doing archival research in Egypt and challenges of access.  


Contributor Bios

Pascale Ghazaleh is chair of the History Department and director of HUSSLab, a Mellon-funded public humanities initiative, at the American University in Cairo. She has worked on the organization of craft guilds and the social networks and material culture of merchants in Ottoman Cairo. She is currently writing about nationalism and historiography in the contemporary Middle East and surveillance in Egypt under British occupation. Her ongoing research concerns property ties and citizenship in late nineteenth-century Egypt. Ghazaleh obtained her PhD from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
Nir Shafir researches the intellectual and religious history of the Middle East, from roughly 1400-1800, focusing on material culture and the history of science and technology. He is an assistant professor of history at UCSD and one of the editors of the Ottoman History Podcast.


Episode No. 449
Release Date: 11 February 2020
Recording Location: Berlin
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: Chad Crouch - Future You, Ink, Lilac; Robert John - Home Fire
Bibliography courtesy of Pascale Ghazaleh


John Chalcraft, “Engaging the State: Peasants and Petitions in Egypt on the Eve of Colonial Rule.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 37, no. 3, 2005, pp. 303–325.,

Juan Cole, Colonialism and Revolution in the Middle East: Social and Cultural Origins of Egypt's `Urabi Movement, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Paperback edn., Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1999

Amina Elbendary, Crowds and Sultans: Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and Syria, Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2015

Pascale Ghazaleh, Past Imperfect, Future Tense. Writing People’s Histories in the Middle East Today,” Essays of the Forum Transregionale Studien, vol. 5, 2019,

Nelly Hanna. Artisan Entrepreneurs in Cairo and Early-Modern Capitalism (1600–1800), Syracuse, N.Y.:  Syracuse University Press,  2011

Aaron Jakes, “The Scales of Public Utility: Agricultural Roads and State Space in the Era of the British Occupation,” in The Long 1890s in Egypt: Colonial Quiescence, Subterranean Resistance, Marilyn Booth and Anthony Gorman, eds., Edinburgh University Press, 2016, pp. 57-86

Ranin Kazemi, "The Tobacco Protest in Nineteenth-Century Iran:The View from a Provincial Town," Journal of Persianate Studies, 7, 2014, pp. 251-295

Ussama Makdisi, "Corrupting the Sublime Sultanate: The Revolt of Tanyus Shahin in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon," Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 42, No. 1, Jan., 2000, pp. 180-208


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