Marwa Sabah


The neoliberal reconfiguration of the Egyptian metropolis of Cairo has rendered the lives of the working poor in informal and destitute urban neighborhoods precarious. Over the past thirty years many of these families and communities have been resettled to new neighborhoods in desert peripheries of the city. This thesis focuses on the everyday lives of women and their networks that have been relocated to Nahda, arguably one of the most targeted neighborhoods in Cairo for relocated and displaced communities. Resettlement is a costly process especially for the working poor who not only have to deal with the physical and emotional costs of relocation, but also equally struggle to secure their livelihoods in light of a continual threat of dispossession and displacement. This constant threat for the poor is part and parcel of the neoliberal city, which is premised on the relentless drive to generate space for new capital. Movement is an essential part of the everyday lives of the two generations of women in Nahda among whom I conducted fieldwork. In this thesis I explore how relocation to, and the perpetual mobility of populations in and out of Nahda, have shaped the ways in which my interlocutors reconstruct their social spaces, spaces in which news meanings of friendship, trust, security, home, and family are created and are constantly changing. Through their everyday strategies of emplacement, I look at how my interlocutors created new networks, which not only enable them to secure their livelihoods, but have also replaced their severed ties from their "original" neighborhoods. I examine how my interlocutors take risks with whatever possible means attainable to them, be it marriage, selling vegetables or having a child , to survive in an informal economic structure. I explore how in their struggle for and to secure housing they both use the law to claim rights from the state and gain visibility, and subvert that same law to navigate the threat of relocation. Finally, I explore not only the effects of the January 25, 2011 popular uprising on the neighborhood, but of equal significance the relationships between precarity and “the event" (January 25, 2011 uprising) and the dreams of my interlocutors in envisioning better and other futures.

Degree Name

MA in Sociology-Anthropology

Graduation Date


Submission Date

October 2015

First Advisor

Rizzo, Helen

Committee Member 1

Sabea, Han

Committee Member 2

Rieker, Marti


108 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

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This thesis would not have been possible without the support, encouragement, time, and patience of a number of people who I want to thank: To my Family: Ali, Mohamed, Khaled and Ha Sabah. I especially thank my mother Maha El Messiri, for being my backbone; even though we have always argued over my thesis, she has always been there to support me when I was about to quit. To my Friends: Anne Justus and Jason Beckett for encouraging and supporting me to write this thesis and for hosting me throughout the process. Youssef Ramez, my academic partner and engaging interlocutor, for being a corner stone in seeing this project through. Omnia Khalil, Sean McMahon, Mohamed Sakr for the time, support, help and patience. To my Professors: Dr. Han Sabea for believing in me and for constantly pushing me to achieve more. Dr. Helen Rizzo for the constant and consistent support and trust and for always being there for me. Dedication to: I especially dedicate this thesis to Dr. Marti Rieker, who not only inspired me to explore an academic library that was new to me; she also contributed in my ability to see the world through my work and our talks. I want to thank Dr. Marti Rieker for believing and trusting in me, and for sharing her time with me. To my interlocutors, especially Ahlam, for opening their lives to me.