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Gender, Public Space and Social Segregation in Cairo: Of Taxi Drivers, Prostitutes and Professional Women

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Cairo's cityscape has transformed rapidly as a result of the neoliberal policies that Egypt adopted in the early 1990s. This article examines the spatial negotiations of class in liberalizing Cairo. While much scholarly attention has been devoted to the impact of neoliberal policies on global cities of the South, few studies have adopted an ethnographic focus to examine the everyday negotiations of such transformations. I examine the ways young female upper-middle-class professionals navigate Cairo's public spaces, both the safe spaces of the upscale coffee shops and the open spaces of the streets. Their urban trajectories can be read as the footsteps of the social segregation that has increasingly come to mark Cairo's cityscape. I conclude that the bodies of upper-middle-class women have become a battleground for new class configurations and contestations, literally embodying both power and fragility of Cairo's upper-middle class in Egypt's new liberal age.

Keywords: Cairo; Class; Gender; Neoliberalism; Public Space

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), PO Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands;, Email:

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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