“The Promise of the Wall: Reflections on Desire and Gated Communities in Cairo” by Farha Ghannam

Promise of the Wall

Farha Ghannam discusses the complex interplay between affect and the construction of gated communities in Cairo in a new article published on Jadaliyya:

“Gated communities,” which started to emerge in the US in the 1980s, have quickly spread around the world and became “a global commodity and cultural icon eagerly consumed by urban elites world-wide” (Genis 2007: 771). Since the mid 1990s, dozens of these communities have spread around Cairo. Most of these developments target the rich and present themselves as alternatives to the hectic, polluted, congested, and crowded Cairo. In their attempts to explain the increasing popularity of these spatial forms among the upper and upper middle class, scholars have highlighted fear and the “myth of risk” (Denis 2006), conspicuous consumption, retreat of the elite from the city and its problems, and emerging neoliberal rationalities (Mitchell 1999, Kuppinger 2004, Adham 2005, Denis 2006, Singerman and Amar 2010). While appreciating the valuable contribution of these studies, my essay aims to shift the attention to the desires that these entities cultivate and promise to fulfill. Although it is clear that fear and risk management create and reinforce boundaries, they do not fully account for the creation, celebration, and legitimatization of gated communities in Cairo. At the same time, while these studies have highlighted a strong link between neoliberalism and gated communities, we have little sense of how this link is materialized through the interplay between affect and desire on the one hand and the organization of space, the making of bodies, and the disciplining of minds on the other hand.

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