This study of modern Egypt opens the debate regarding new terms and methods for understanding the Middle East and Islamic societies. Amira el-Azhary Sonbol has produced an analytical history of Egypt from the time before Muhammad Ali to the present day. Using local idioms and terms such as khassa and ‘amma, iltazim and fa’iz, she has developed a methodology that is more meaningful because it ties events of the eighteenth century to those of the twentieth.
The author explores the division that has existed in modern Egyptian society between two groups: the khassa, a ruling elite that tried to impose a hegemonic culture that reflected and encouraged its own economic
interests, and the ‘amma, the masses who clung to their heritage and customs in an attempt to acquire a share of the wealth.
Sonbol discusses today’s Islamic movement in Egypt as a revolution correcting the duality of culture that was brought about by historical events like colonialism and the importation of exogenous ideologies. She suggests a different way of looking at culture and the necessity of seeing cultural struggle as a method for studying the historical process that goes beyond the political and economical.
Amira el-Azhary Sonbol is associate professor of lslamic history, society, and law at the Center for Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University. She is the author of The Creation of a Medical Profession in Egypt, 1800-1922 and the editor of Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, also published by Syracuse University Press.
6 x 9, 340 pages