Markets of Dispossession

9780822335832: Hardback
Release Date: 26th October 2005

9780822335719: Paperback
Release Date: 26th October 2005

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 296

Series Politics, History, and Culture

Duke University Press Books

Markets of Dispossession

NGOs, Economic Development, and the State in Cairo

Hardback / £86.00
Paperback / £21.99

What happens when the market tries to help the poor? In many parts of the world today, neoliberal development programs are offering ordinary people the tools of free enterprise as the means to well-being and empowerment. Schemes to transform the poor into small-scale entrepreneurs promise them the benefits of the market and access to the rewards of globalization. Markets of Dispossession is a theoretically sophisticated and sobering account of the consequences of these initiatives.

Julia Elyachar studied the efforts of bankers, social scientists, ngo members, development workers, and state officials to turn the craftsmen and unemployed youth of Cairo into the vanguard of a new market society based on microenterprise. She considers these efforts in relation to the alternative notions of economic success held by craftsmen in Cairo, in which short-term financial profit is not always highly valued. Through her careful ethnography of workshop life, Elyachar explains how the traditional market practices of craftsmen are among the most vibrant modes of market life in Egypt. Long condemned as backward, these existing market practices have been seized on by social scientists and development institutions as the raw materials for experiments in “free market” expansion. Elyachar argues that the new economic value accorded to the cultural resources and social networks of the poor has fueled a broader process leading to their economic, social, and cultural dispossession.

Acknowledgments ix
A Note on Transliteration xv
1. Introduction: The Power of Invisible Hands 1
2. A Home for Markets: Two Neighborhoods in Plan and Practice, 1905–1996 37
3. Mappings of Power: Informal Economy and Hybrid States 66
4. Mastery, Power, and Model Workshop Markets 96
5. Value, the Evil Eye, and Economic Subjectivities 137
6. NGO's, Business, and Social Capital 167
7. Empowering Debt
191
Conclusion: The Free Market and the Invisible Spectator 213
Notes 221
Bibliography 245
Index 269

Julia Elyachar is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine.

Markets of Dispossession is a brilliant study of contemporary forms of market ideology and practice. Exploring central questions about value and social resources, debt and dispossession, culture and power, it offers an original and outstanding contribution to the anthropological analysis of the economic.”—Timothy Mitchell, author of Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity

“Ethnographically rich and analytically powerful, Markets of Dispossession fundamentally reshapes the debate over the informal economy, microenterprise, and economic development and points to the complex and many-layered world-conjuring work of that which we have come to call neoliberalism. Based on evocative accounts of craftsmen’s workshops in Cairo, Julia Elyachar shows how the market expansion promoted by the World Bank, NGOs, and others poses critical challenges to both everyday lives and contemporary social analysis.”—Bill Maurer, author of Mutual Life, Limited: Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral Reason

“[A] masterful description and sophisticated interpretation of the transformation of the social, cultural, and political economy of urban Egypt since the early 1990s. . . . Elyachar has written a book that is essential reading for anyone concerned with development, Egypt and the Arab World, and the dangers of ideologically motivated interference by foreign social scientists and other experts in local economies and societies.”

Donald (Abdallah) Cole
American Ethnologist

“Elyachar has produced a work rich in fine ethnographic detail and driven by important theoretical insights into the workings of market, the anthropology of value, the play of power in society, and the social consequences of development strategies. This is a brilliant study on many levels. . . . This work is a tour-de-force of critical analysis and ethnographic exposition. It sets new standards for the study of programmatic economic development, the ethnography of craft and small-scale production, and the cultural consequences and human costs of structural adjustment.”

Roy Dilley
Social Anthropology