Casey Primel

  • Fellowship Dates 2013-2013
  • Research Topic Constructing the Modern Egyptian Economy in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate Columbia University

While it has traditionally been thought that the economy developed as an autonomous sphere of reality with the rise of market society in Europe during the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, recent scholarship suggests a more recent and heterogeneous birth. This research investigates the construction of the economy from the site of its emergence in the colonial modernity of early 20th-century Egypt and constructs a genealogy of the economy that takes the heterogeneity and unevenness characteristic of its emergence into account. This genealogy of the economy transgresses some of the standard categories of historical understanding to critically examine the economy’s role in staging capitalist modernity, whether in its singular global form or its multiple national forms. Under British rule, Egypt was the most prominent of a mere handful of laboratories for the practices that now govern economic and political life in the modern world. This makes it a key site for investigating the genealogy of the economy.

This study is divided into three parts. The first part reintegrates the historical narratives of the rise of finance capital and the transformations in theories of value in political economy and economics. It focuses on the discursive practices that serve as the link between the two and the way these refashioned the mechanisms through which the politics of difference between Egyptians and foreigners was staged. The second part analyzes the changing relationship between money and economy in Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century by examining the shift in the discourse on agricultural credit. It illustrates the ways in which a new discourse of credit depoliticized power relations in colonial Egypt by recoding those power relations in the form of exchange between equivalent economic subjects. The third section investigates the instrumentalization of money as a technique of colonial governance in Egypt and argues that instrumentalization overwrote the imperial topography of circulating goods and currency with the postcolonial topography of geographically delimited national economies.

TopicsArabic & Islamic & Near and Middle Eastern Studies, HistoryThemePeople & SocietyHistoric PeriodKhedival, Modern


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