World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Knowledge, Modernity and the State in the Nile Valley: Egypt and Sudan in the Imperial Era, 1882-1956 (396) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 5.00-7.00 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: IREMAM - Université de Provence (France)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Iris Seri-Hersch

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The purpose of this panel is to explore the multiple relations between knowledge production in various fields and institutions on the one hand, and the formation of the modern state in the Nile Valley on the other. The different papers of the panel seek to explore an overlooked aspect in studies on colonialism in Egypt and Sudan, i.e. the centrality of knowledge production in the colonial state formation process as well as in the shaping of national identities. Various forms of knowledge and cultural production, ranging from administrative to historical knowledge, education, and artistic production, will be examined in their relation to political power, imperialist and nationalist ideologies, and the conceptualization of modernity in the Nile Valley during the imperial era. The relationship between state and knowledge production will be analyzed as a process of mutual constitution. On the one side, the papers of the panel will investigate the forms of knowledge which were produced as part of the administrative and educational policies pursued by the colonial state in Egypt and Sudan. On the other side, the impact of knowledge production on state formation will also be scrutinized. The papers share a common approach which considers culture and systems of meaning as central elements shaping social reality. However, rather than focusing on abstract knowledge and ideas, these papers are interested in exploring both representations and practices related to the production and circulation of knowledge and culture.

Chair: Prof. Michel Tuchscherer, CEFAS, Sanaa

Discussant: Chiara Diana, IREMAM - Université de Provence

Presenter presenter: Malak Labib, IREMAM-Université de Provence, "Statistical Production and the Emergence of New Modalities of Rule in Colonial Egypt, 1881-1910"
This paper will focus on the emergence and development of new forms of enumeration and classification in colonial Egypt and the role that these knowledge and techniques played in the formation of the colonial state. Following the public debt crisis and the British occupation of Egypt in 1881, the state started to produce statistics in a regular and systematic way. During that period, statistics developed as a form of internal knowledge in state institutions. Examining the production and use of statistics within a specific institution, the ministry of justice, this paper will thus attempt to explore how the production and dissemination of statistical tools and knowledge contributed to the transformation of government practice in the colonial era.

Presenter presenter: Elka Correa, IREMAM-Université de Provence Modern Art, "Artistic Education and the Quest for National Identity in Egypt, 1908-1936"
As it happened with several professions and disciplines that were institutionalized during the 19th century, the field of artistic production also begun to be standardized. In 1908 Prince Youssef Kamal founded the first Fine Arts School in Cairo and academic art was introduced in Egypt. A few years after this school was founded, art in the West started undergoing a series of transformations that reflected the profound changes that society was experiencing. European ‘avant-gardes’ were more symbolic than realistic and did not seek to imitate nature or revive history. Modern art was individualistic and went beyond collective identities. It was contrary to any art that would serve for the purpose of building a national state. However in Egypt, the birth of Modern art is related to the emergence of nationalism and the quest for a national identity. Unlike European painters that sought to reflect a more subjective state of mind, Egyptian artists from this first generation, who graduated between 1910 and 1911, took inspiration from Orientalism and Pharaonism; this raises the question whether Modern Egyptian art can be considered Modern.

Presenter presenter: Pierre Liguori, CEAF-EHESS, "Knowledge is Power: in the Sudan: F. R. Wingate and the History of Mahdism, 1883-1899"
While Mahdism had made of Sudan an independent state (1881-1898), the prolonged occupation of Egypt by the British gave it some value for their strategy in the Scramble for Africa. After Gordon’s death and the fall of Khartoum in 1885, F.R. Wingate, the director of the Anglo-Egyptian Military Intelligence, undertook to shape a new representation of Mahdism. In contrast to his government’s official policy, he advocated a British conquest of Sudan, playing on Anglo-French rivalry on the Nile. His action took the form of official reports and books claiming to historical knowledge. He wrote a history of Mahdist Sudan, establishing an imperial English model based on negative representations of Turco-Egyptian rule. He published a book out of numerous intelligence reports (1891), followed by personal narratives of European prisoners he had liberated from Mahdist Sudan: the missionary J. Ohrwalder (1892) and the military administrator R. Slatin (1895). Recognized as the ‘Encyclopedia of Sudan’, Wingate founded the country’s colonial history, which justified British conquest and rule by contrasting it with Turco-Egyptian and Mahdist despotism. It considered the emergence of Sudan as a country through its 19th century history.

Presenter presenter: Iris Seri-Hersch, IREMAM-Université de Provence, "Conceptualizing Modernity through Colonial Encounters: Educational Challenges and Experiments in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1934-1950"
In 1934, a new Teacher’s Training College was established at Bakht er Ruda (White Nile), which marked the beginning of a multifaceted process of educational experimentation in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. By 1950, the small training centre had evolved into a full-fledged Institute of Education active in the fields of teacher training, curricula experiment, textbook production, schools inspection, literacy campaigns, rural work, and boys’ clubs. Its aims and policies were largely shaped by the joint efforts of two leading educationists, Vincent L. Griffiths (the Institute’s founder and first Principal, 1934-1950) and ‘Abd al-Ra’man ‘Ali ‘aha (Vice-Principal 1936-1948). Supervising mixed teams of British and Sudanese teachers and pedagogues, these colonial officials perceived themselves as spearheads of social change. How did they conceive modern schooling in theory and practice? What were the educational challenges and dilemmas arising from the diverging cultural backgrounds of those in charge of state education in colonial Sudan? How did Griffiths put up with the ambiguity of being at once a member of the foreign colonial elite and a progressive educationist facilitating Sudanese criticism of British imperial rule?