Villagers, Criminals, and Policemen: Policing and Justice in Rural Egypt, 1854-1914


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




“Villagers, Criminals, and Policemen: Policing and Justice in Rural Egypt, 1854-1914” examines the everyday life of policing in the Egyptian countryside. This dissertation focuses on the quotidian workings of the Ministry of Interior in Sharqiya province. Who and what did the Ministry “police?” What role did land ownership play in shaping policing powers? What might we understand differently about policing and criminality in modern Egypt if we center rural lives? Using maps, folktales, oral history, and state archives, the dissertation offers a disaggregated understanding of the Ministry as a web of policemen, bureaucrats, ‘umdas, and informants. This entangled web decenters the Ministry as an institution. Instead, the village itself appears as a site of the (un)making of justice. Rural conditions evidence the relationship between geographies of policing and land accumulation/dispossession; redraw the map of law enforcement, blur categories of criminals and rebels, and redefine gendered regimes.