Remaking Property Rights: Spatial Materiality and State Violence in Cairo and Istanbul

Sarah El-Kazaz, Oberlin College

Comparing the evolution of property rights in Turkey and Egypt, this paper examines the spatial material underpinnings of property rights regimes and varied pathways towards neoliberalization. Seeing the city as an environment where geopolitical strategy, infrastructural orientation, affective experience and everyday logistics intertwine, the paper argues that it is the spatial materiality of that environment that explains why Turkey adopts a more predatory property regime than Egypt with neoliberalization rather than simply inter-group conflict. In doing so, the paper seeks to challenge arguments in political science that treat the city and its “property” as inert and fungible resources in a redistributive struggle between class coalitions. Drawing on the evolution of property regimes in Cairo and Istanbul since the inception of their post-colonial republics, the paper brings property to life in rethinking how property rights evolve. More specifically, in Istanbul the paper examines how geopolitics post-WWI, infrastructural programs that reoriented an imperial center into a regional industrial hub and the affective politics of melancholy came together to produce Istanbul's property terrain in the 2000s. In Cairo the paper conducts a similar analysis that studies how the physical material impact of rent control laws, Islamic hereditary practices and the aesthetics of the city’s urban fabric shaped its spatial materiality in order to compare its property terrain to that of Istanbul's as both cities neoliberalize. Ultimately, the paper argues for seeing “class” itself as manufactured through spatial material experience in the city. The paper reads historical secondary source materials through the lens of ethnographic fieldwork I conducted in Egypt and Turkey since 2011 and various literary texts and audio-visual sources to bring together geopolitics, infrastructure, affect and everyday logistics in analyzing the spatial materiality of property regimes and class in Istanbul and Cairo.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 74. Space, Materiality, and State-Society Relations in the Middle East and Beyond