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dc.contributor.advisor Hill, Joseph Radwan, Maha Brence Ahmad
dc.creator Radwan, Maha Brence Ahmad 2011-05-31T12:40:50Z 2011-05-31T12:40:50Z 2011 Spring 2011-05-31T12:40:50Z
dc.description.abstract This thesis studies the transformations of architecture and social life in the city of Balat in Dakhla oases in the Western Desert in Egypt. I explore the inhabitants' conceptions of modernity in relation to architecture and other aspects of social life. I investigate how the prevalent discourses of modernity that the inhabitants encounter through their interaction with state institutions, stay in Cairo, and exposure to media products inform their practices towards architecture and other aspects of social life. Moreover, I investigate how such discourses are received and appropriated by the people of Balat. I argue that the prevalent discourses on modern architecture and modernity in general, have largely influenced the choices of the people of Balat. These discourses present reinforced concrete buildings as modern and the mud-brick ones as primitive, backward, and old-fashioned. They present the urban architecture and life styles of Cairo and Western countries as modern and superior in contrast to vernacular architecture and rural life styles that are portrayed as backward and inferior. Thus, many people in Balat build their houses either of reinforced concrete or of white limestone bricks, explicitly rationalizing this decision in terms of the modernness and newness of these types. Yet, these discourses do not entirely account for their decisions, as there are other factors that contribute to this choice. Moreover, I show that when the inhabitants accept these discourses; they appropriate some of them to serve symbolic needs. What seems to be blind imitation of the people of Cairo turns out to be rational techniques for presenting the self as modern. Imitation is their rational technique to get ahead in a world that associates the rural with backwardness and the urban with modernity. I also show that the architecture of Old Balat that I view as aesthetically impressive was a rational response to certain conditions and needs in the past, many of which no longer exist; the changing circumstances and needs of the people in Balat have produced different architecture that the inhabitants see as suitable to the present time. Furthermore, I argue that contrary to the conceptualization in Western thought of modernity as a condition that is discontinuous with the past and tradition (Harvey, 1989), modernity in Balat reveals that the past and the present, the traditional and the modern are intertwined. In building their houses in New Balat, the inhabitants adopt and appropriate newly introduced architectural elements because they are practical and prestigious, yet, they do not break from their traditions. I show that the inhabitants of Balat perceive modernity as progress which manifests in experiencing and adopting all that is new to them, that which improves and renovates their lives, provided that it does not contradict religion and customs. I investigate how conceptions of modernity in Balat combine cosmopolitan imaginations of economic and cultural progress with local traditions and morality. I show how modernity is not one thing; rather, it is a concept that mediates between the past and future, the local and the universal. I show that though the inhabitants' visions of modernity are informed by several discourses of modernity, they are not passive receivers of these discourses; they often appropriate them to serve their own purposes. The inhabitants of Balat selectively appropriate what they consider modern of the ideas, technologies, lifestyles, and fashion that they get from several sources. I show that though the majority of the informants view progress as change that is mainly positive, they think that it has a few negative aspects. Thus, they resort to religion, as well as their customs and traditions to help them counter the negative aspects of progress. This reveals that modernization in Balat is far from Westernization or Americanization, a fact that challenges widespread assumptions of classic social theory. People in Balat see religion as an important part of their lives, and some of them view the increased religiosity in their community as an aspect of progress that goes hand in hand with the other aspects. I argue that conceptions of modernity in Balat reveal that modernity is not an end-point, to which all peoples seek to reach, but some kind of imaginary that mediates between what is local and what is universal. en
dc.format.medium theses en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.rights Author retains all rights with regard to copyright. en
dc.subject Architecture en
dc.subject Modernity en
dc.subject Balat en
dc.subject Dakhla Oases en
dc.subject Egypt en
dc.subject.lcsh Thesis (M.A.)--American University in Cairo en
dc.subject.lcsh Oases -- Egypt -- Architecture.
dc.subject.lcsh Oases -- Egypt -- Social life and customs.
dc.subject.lcsh Wāḥāt al-Baḥrīyah (Egypt : District) -- Architecture.
dc.title Architecture, change, and conceptions of modernity in Balat, Dakhla Oases en
dc.type Text en
dc.subject.discipline Sociology and Anthropology en
dc.rights.access This item is available en
dc.contributor.department American University in Cairo. Dept. of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology en

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  • Theses and Dissertations [1704]
    This collection includes theses and dissertations authored by American University in Cairo graduate students.

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