In 2016 ‘People’s Right’ campaign, also known as the National Committee for Retrieving Looted State Lands, was assigned to either retrieve or facilitate the formal registration of state lands according to occupants’ personal cases. This study explores the official representations of desert land reclamation, allocation, and distribution, with a focus on the (re-) conceptualization of rights, state territoriality, and sovereignty as a part of an emerging national narrative on state lands and property rights. The study draws on methodological insights in the anthropology of development which employs a Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine ‘development’ and the role of the state under neoliberalism. Through the lens of an unregistered settlement, Ard Baza, the study puts national narratives of desert development and property rights in conversation with individual cases to explore both property and state/society relations. In this framework, I examine several sources including state publications, presidential speeches, newspapers’ archives, and official publications between 1952 and 2011. I also explore the history of Ard Baza between 1989 and 2016 through semi-structured interviews with occupants, a sample of land contracts, and other legal documents.


Middle East Studies Center

Degree Name

MA in Middle East Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

January 2018

First Advisor

Gamblin, Sandrine

Committee Member 1

Abaza, Mona

Committee Member 2

Mason, Robert


112 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


The author retains all rights with regard to copyright. The author certifies that written permission from the owner(s) of third-party copyrighted matter included in the thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study has been obtained. The author further certifies that IRB approval has been obtained for this thesis, or that IRB approval is not necessary for this thesis. Insofar as this thesis, dissertation, paper, or record of study is an educational record as defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 USC 1232g), the author has granted consent to disclosure of it to anyone who requests a copy.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item


This research project was conducted under a fellowship granted by the American University in Cairo. It is a product of two years of hard work and what seemed to be an eternal nightmare, the nightmare did not emerge from the stress that this work has put me through, but from the stress of forcing myself to document my own compromised security as I faced the threat of eviction and the demolishment of my house. In this process, I have learned that being a part of the academic ‘ivory tower,’ a local subject and a researcher is very empowering as one possesses the tools to connect their experiences to a broader network of knowledge. The tools and skills to which I owe the production of this work would not have been possible without the assistance of my professors and colleagues at AUC. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Sandrine Gamblin and Dr. Mona Abaza who have generously provided me with the help I needed and assisted me throughout the various stages of my research. My gratitude also extends to my second reader Dr. Robert Mason and Dr. Sherene Seikaly for their support and much-valued assistance. I’m also grateful to Radwa Wassim and Hany Luke at the Middle East Studies Center. I would also like to express my gratitude to my family, Iman El-Gazzar and Yehia Salman for their support. Finally, informants at Ard Baza, who have taken time out of their daily schedules to meet with me and thoroughly explain to me their cases.