Cairo collages

Everyday life practices after the event

By Mona Abaza

Cairo collages


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4511-6
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: February 2020
  • BIC Category: Sociology & anthropology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General, Egypt, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban, TRAVEL / Middle East / Egypt, Society & social sciences / Sociology & anthropology, Urban Communities


Cairo is a city of collective exhaustion. From the 2011 revolution to Sisi's seizure of power in 2013, like millions of others, Mona Abaza was swallowed by a draining and exhausting daily life of a city caught up in the aftermath of revolt - a daily life that transformed countless people into all-embracing apolitical subjects.

Cairo collages narrates four parallel tales about Cairo's urban transformations in the twenty-first century, examining everyday life and resilience after 2013. Weaving personal narrative with incisive theoretical discussions of the quotidian and the everyday, Abaza raises essential sociological questions regarding global orientations pertaining to emerging military urbanism. With reflections on the long hours of commuting to the gated communities in the desert east of Cairo and the daily material lives and social interactions of residents in decaying middle-class buildings, Abaza's collage of landscapes weaves together the transmutations underway in the various Cairene geographies.


'Rarely has a book immersed a reader into what it really means to inhabit a city, with all of its inscriptions, wayward intersecting lives, its resounding contradictions, promiscuous aspirations, and stubborn constraints. Much more than collage, this is a compendium of Abaza's creative engagements with her messy surrounds, a tour de force of a life she has made Cairo worth living.'
AbdouMaliq Simone, University of Sheffield

'Cairo Collages
comes to crown Mona Abaza's already impressive contribution to studies on Cairo since the mid 1950s. Using her own apartment building as a topos through which to read political, economic, social, and aesthetic transformations in the country as a whole in the aftermath of 2011 Abaza ably balances meticulous insight with heart-wrenching black humor on the janus-faced city whose very name encapsulates its contradictions: at once victorious and vanquisher.'
Samia Mehrez, The American University in Cairo

'From a long standing witness of impeccable credentials, we are presented with a harrowing portrait of Cairo since the January Revolution. People disappear into themselves or abroad or rounded up by the state as the revolutionary tide recedes and reaction is restored. Mona Abaza discerns order behind chaos, plumbing the depths of a new political morality. A brilliant rendition of endless movement in space and time, the daily nightmare and creativity of life in the megalopolis of the Global South.'
Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

'Collage relies on cuts and juxtapositions of discontiguous and unlikely elements and thus provides a productively evocative aesthetic form for urbanisation in the present, as Mona Abaza deftly captures. Cairo after the revolution in quotation marks emerges in Abaza's graceful, sardonic and chaotic scenes through an ethnography of ethics: one in which the cut necessary for collage becomes not only the site of violence and rupture but also suture, repair and care. Cairo Collages demarcates the quiet coup of the quotidian city that is anything but everyday.'
Ryan Bishop, University of Southampton


1 Tale I: Al-'imaara (the building) as topos
2 Tale II: Commute
3 Tale III: My exhausted and exhausting building
4 My flat: Nostalgia and al-zaman al-gamiil (the 'beautiful old times')
5 The elevator saga: The degeneration of everyday material conditions
Tale IV: Order
Appendix I: Interview with E.D.
Appendix II: Excerpts from interview with Laila al-Raa'i


Mona Abaza is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Egyptology and Anthropology at The American University in Cairo

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