My thesis examines the processes by which the reproduction of power and social hierarchies transpire in the field of international, private schools in Egypt. More specifically, I will analyze how the linguistic system in these schools reproduce and reinforce forms of power and inequality. I will consider the process by which nonnative languages, principally English, became the dominant and legitimate linguistic system of these schools, and how the complexities of their habitus have influenced students' language beliefs and practices. Language is a place for ideological contestation and identity assertion reinforcing power relations between groups and individuals. Differences in accent, grammar, language, and vocabulary indicate hierarchical social positions and quantities of linguistic capital. Furthermore, this process has stigmatized Arabic, although the national language, as deficient and subordinate. Using a theoretical framework guided by the work of Pierre Bourdieu and through ethnographic fieldwork, I will attempt to understand the effects such developments have on structuring agents' (studentsâ primarily Egyptian, teachers, alumni) behavior and beliefs, and how private schools assist in the reproduction of this social order. Aside from my ethnographic fieldwork, I explore the effects of two transformative socio-historical processes on Egypt's education system and social order. First, I explore the emergence of the effendiya and the reproduction of their habitus and practices into a privileged, cosmopolitan class. Second, I explore the reproduction of social positions and inequalities through the continued bifurcation of Egypt's education system into two distinct tracks. Previous scholarship focused on public Egyptian schools analyzing curriculum, the pyramidal and antidemocratic nature of public schooling, the impact of Islam on school culture, and the State and Arabic language polices. I, however, will focus on the complexities of social processes in Egypt's â privilegedâ class regarding the development of language using education as the site of contestation. Through a rather unexplored approach, this thesis will show how inequalities and social hierarchies are transferred into the macrosociety through the English language and education. Furthermore, it also addresses ways in which power relations and social positions of the elite in Egypt are maintained and reproduced.


Middle East Studies Center

Degree Name

MA in Middle East Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2012

First Advisor

Geer, Benjamin



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Language schools -- Egypt.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Education -- Egypt -- 21st century.


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item


In my endeavors through this thesis writing process, I must first and foremost thank my thesis advisor, Dr. Benjamin Geer, whose motivation, advice and enthusiasm for my topic made this thesis possible. I would also like to thank Dr. Reem Saad for her continued support and guidance throughout my time as a graduate student in the Department of Middle East Studies, and Dr. Ghada Barsoum for her helpful advice and commitment to this thesis. Dr. Madiha Doss, thank you for meeting with me and patiently trying to advise me with your years of knowledge and research in the sociolinguistic field in the Middle East. I must also acknowledge the students and teachers who made this thesis possibleâ one in particular who dedicated much of her time and efforts to assisting me in my fieldwork. Filly, I would like to thank my family. Omar for always putting up with me even in my self-imposed moments of stress; my parents for always reminding me that I can do anything I put my mind to; and Erin for your continued support and interest throughout my academic career.