In This Review

Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics, and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo
Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics, and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo
By Diane Singerman
Princeton University Press, 1995, 335 pp
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Anyone who has read the novels of Naguib Mahfouz knows that the popular quarters of Cairo hold a special fascination because of the rich mixture of family and neighborhood networks. Now a talented American political scientist has written about these same neighborhoods, after having spent time living there in the mid-1980s with an Egyptian family. The result is political anthropology of a high order. Singerman shows how family ties empower people, along with the ruses used to deal with bureaucrats and the state. Her picture of women black marketeers is especially revealing. As a social scientist, she is determined to challenge the stereotype of the passive urban poor, and she makes a largely successful case for seeing politics in other than elite terms. It remains an open question, however, how much attention the state will have to pay to the sentiments and maneuvers of people in these popular quarters, who are skillful at resisting government rules and regulations but find it difficult to amass the political and economic capital needed to influence politics at the national level.