World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: INALCO (France)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Delphine Pagès-El Karoui

· NOT_DEFINED language: English / Français

· NOT_DEFINED description: More than 3 millions of Egyptians have left – temporarily or permanently- their country to live abroad, mainly in the Arab states, Europe and North America. This panel aims to be a platform for scholars specialized in Egyptian migrants from various disciplines to set a network of researchers and launch a research project on a comparative study between the three migratory systems, exploring not only their similarities and differences but also their connections and articulations. This panel may propose eclectic theoretical approaches, combining macro- and micro-perspectives of analysis.

- Studying migratory experiences insisting on the complexity of personal trajectories (circular migration, return migration) and taking in account the diversity of Egyptian migrants: if irregular low skilled migrants are more numerous in Europe, there is also an important migration of high skilled Egyptians, in particular in Arab countries ; if the young single males are prevalent, one can notice singular trajectories of Egyptian women migrants, usually highly educated ; with the exile of thousands of Coptic Egyptians towards America and Europe, the evocation of a Coptic Diaspora became more relevant. The incorporation of Egyptians in the host societies should be questioned: in France, Egyptian (low-skilled) migrants have few social bonds with French people, except with the North African immigrants. Even in the Arab states, Egyptian migrants suffer from racism and exclusion. Do the different regional contexts of migration play an active role in recombining the migrant identities? We should also pay attention to the development of transnational families. It’s not rare than children –especially daughters– even born in Europe have been sent back to Egypt to live in a traditional Arab social environment to preserve their moral values.
- Focusing on the impacts in Egypt of a world-wide emigration, considering the strong links Egyptian migrants keep with their motherland. Local development in small towns in the Nile Delta, networks, economic and social remittances will be subjects of interest. If the religious imports of wahhabi customs by migrants from the Gulf is often denounced as a major driver of reislamisation of the society, what kind of norms, moral values and practices do the migrants bring back with them from Europe or America?
- Migratory myths and fictions which are recurrent in the press, literature or cinema should be described. From instance, if, in Egyptian films dealing with migration to the West, the migrant is often seen in a negative way, as the person who is gaining his freedom but losing his values, the portray of European countries is more friendly than America, entangled in moral decay.
- Analyzing migration policies : Egypt government recently signed bilateral agreements with Italy on circular migration, but also with Canada and Libya. Do migration policies strongly differ according to the migratory regional systems?

Chair: Delphine Pagès-El Karoui (INALCO)

Paper presenter: Ayman Zohry (Egyptian Society for Migration Studies) ‘A study on the Dynamics of the Egyptian Diaspora : Strengthening Development Linkages’
This study is based on a field survey of Egyptian diaspora in Kuwait, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The study mixes quantitative and qualitative methods to achieve its objectives. A quantitative study was carried out through a structured questionnaire with 323 respondents in the three countries. In addition, some 49 guiding in-depth interviews were conducted with Egyptians in these three countries. The fieldwork took place between April and June 2008. The objective of this study is to provide an overview on contemporary Egyptian diaspora, examine existing avenues for engaging diasporas in the development of Egypt and to recommend policies and programs to enhance contribution of diasporas to the socio-economic development of Egypt.
The study first presents a summary of the debate on migration-development nexus, diaspora as agents for development, the approaches of researching diaspora, and the Egyptian diaspora studies. It then discusses the conceptualization of the Egyptian diaspora in terms of its history, contemporary diasporas in Arab countries and in the West, Egyptian diaspora and development. The results of the empirical study are then presented in the subsequent section. This section includes a presentation of the diasporas’ background characteristics, migration dynamics, and problems of the Egyptian diaspora, and diaspora resources that could be linked to the development of Egypt. Finally, some policy recommendations are discussed in the last section.

Paper presenter: Lucile Gruntz (EHESS) ‘Profligate Sons and Antiheroes: Paradoxes of Round-Trips between Egypt and the Gulf’
Since more than three decennia, millions of Egyptians each year leave their country looking for well-paid jobs in the neighbour states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Most of these labourers settle back in their home country after months, years or even sometimes decennia abroad. This contribution focuses on the historical evolution of the back and forth migration between Cairo and the GCC States, and of the ways it has been portrayed. Spread by Egyptian media as well as collective expectances, stereotypes depicting migrants will be compared with stories of returnees of various classes, ages and gender. Collected in the city of Cairo, these stories help to appraise the weight of the management of foreign labour by GCC States compared with the importance of social capital and individual agency in the outcome of the migratory process. Despite all the hopes and protests these outward journeys arouse, they do not necessarily end successfully. Rather than functioning as a key to wealth, migration seems to perpetuate class inequalities and to redefine sociability, solidarities and distinctions among the Cairene society. However, these social transformations do not follow a linear path, and are not initiated only by population moves. The collective experience of the round-trip to the Gulf thus helps to incorporate Egypt into a regional space coping with the paradoxical contributions of globalisation, often synonym of both growing opportunities and inequalities.

Paper presenter: Yasmine M. Ahmed (American University in Cairo) ‘Marriage Transnational Style: A Case Study from Egypt’
This paper explores how capital globalisation and neoliberalism has produced a transnational marriage phenomenon between Egyptian migrant men and less-privileged Egyptian middle class women. Since the early 1990s, an increasing number of women from different parts of Egypt marry into Egyptian migrant workers in the U.S. through matchmakers who are often family members. Based on a multi-sited ethnography in New York City and the Egyptian village of Kafr al-Dawar, I argue that on the macro level, the structural transformations of the two states since the late 1970s, which intensified in the 1990s, resulted in an increasing transnational marriage between "successful" male migrant workers in the U.S. and less-privileged middle-class women seeking comfortable marriage settings in Kafr al-Dawar. At the micro level, on the one hand, this marriage enables Egyptian migrant workers to marry by their economic advantage, to improve their social status at home by virtue of fulfilling marriage requirements, to escape US racialization, and to reconnect with home. On the other hand, it drives less-privileged middle class women to marry migrant workers in an attempt at bettering their lives and securing their futures. This research contributes to emerging debates on migration and transnationalism, while employing multi-sited ethnographic approaches in a number of ways. First, it highlights the need to employ the concept of transnational social fields and processes not only as they occur from 'above' and 'below,' within the borders and under the regulations of nation-states but also in fields of financial, political and cultural domination, which allow this type of transnational marriage to blossom. Second, it conceptualizes marriages between Egyptian male migrant workers and female women residing in Kafr al-Dawar within the frameworks of globalization, transnationalism, and neoliberalism in Egypt and in the U.S. Third, it provides a historically situated analysis on marriage cases that take macro-, intermediate-, and micro-levels of analysis, structure and agency, as well as layered subjectivities as key foci of this paper. In so doing, this paper defies simple confinement into macro/micro categories, structure/agency or individual/collective dichotomies.