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The Long 1890s in EgyptColonial Quiescence, Subterranean Resistance$
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Marilyn Booth and Gorman Anthony

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748670123

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748670123.001.0001

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The Scales of Public Utility:

The Scales of Public Utility:

Agricultural Roads and State Space in the Era of the British Occupation

Chapter:
(p.57) 2 The Scales of Public Utility
Source:
The Long 1890s in Egypt
Author(s):

Aaron George Jakes

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748670123.003.0003

Histories of British rule in Egypt have long construed colonial public works projects simply in terms of the revenue they generated for debt repayment. This chapter focuses on one such project—the construction of thousands of kilometres of unpaved dirt roads during the 1890s—to resituate such new public works at the centre of the occupation’s efforts to render the imagined difference between “Oriental despotism” and “British justice” palpable at the level of everyday experience in the countryside. By following the category of “public utility” from ministerial debates into peasant petitions and onto the pages of the Egyptian press, the chapter shows how this spectacular elaboration of agrarian infrastructures contributed to new understandings of the state as an instrument or machine that could be seized and manipulated by particular interests. In this way, public works forged the material terrain upon which subsequent critical engagements with British rule would unfold.

Keywords:   Public works, State space, Instrumentalism, Roads, Public Utility, Colonial state

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