- Fellowship Dates 2015-2015
- Research Topic Life during Wartime: Peasants, Politics and the Colonial State in Egypt 1914-23
- Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate Cornell University
During World War I, British military and civilian officials formed the Egyptian Labor Corps (ELC), groups of migrant laborers – most of whom were illiterate peasants from the countryside – to work as logistical laborers in the British Army. Although exact figures of the number of Egyptians who ultimately enrolled in the ELC are non-existent and difficult to estimate precisely, it seems that at least 250,000-500,000 Egyptians served in the Great War. The story of the ELC provides important insight into the role of the rural working classes in the establishment of national modernity in Egypt and its significance extends beyond demographics. This research breaks apart the spatial dichotomies of existing research that explains peasant political consciousness in Marxist or Foucaultian terms. It develops new concepts by which to understand the lives of workers and peasants within the context of integrated, transnational social fields. The study shifts the scale of analysis to the logistical space of the British Empire and acknowledges the crucial role of the rural working classes in building physical infrastructure, moving through transnational circuits and engaging in politically significant acts of disruption and subterfuge. Migrant laborers built much of the physical infrastructure that linked diverse sites of production, distribution and consumption in the 19th-century Egyptian economy as it developed under the period of British colonization. This research follows the laborers of the ELC as they were gathered in the countryside, transported to Europe and the Middle East during the Great War and returned home in time to play a role in the 1919 revolution.