Engineering Metropolis: Contagion, Capital, and the Making of British Colonial Cairo, 1882-1922


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




While initially marginal to British colonial policies, by the end of the colonial period Cairo became the site of technological intervention that sought to reorder the urban landscape spatially and socially. This project argues that internal pressures were at the origin of this shift, which produced a fraught and contradictory metropolis. Recurring epidemics and a severe housing crisis implicated colonial authorities in the unwieldy task of governing a growing city, made the regime prone to critique, and exposed the narrowness of its conception of material prosperity. Against this background the regime undertook large-scale urban infrastructural projects that attempted to modernize urban water supply and provided the city with its first sewage system. Ironically, authorities contemplated comprehensive town planning schemes only on the eve of the 1919 revolution, which upended the colonial regime and its visions and signaled the refusal of Cairo’s unruly inhabitants to accept prosperity based on imperial assumptions.