34 Hillhouse Avenue, Henry R. Luce Hall, Room 203, 11:00 a.m.
The Agrarian Studies Program presents:
Aaron Jakes, Postdoctoral Assistant and Lecturer, Yale University: “State of the Field Restated; Agricultural Regulation and Colonial Conservatism in Egypt.”
Aaron Jakes is a Postdoctoral Assistant and Lecturer at Yale University. His current book project is tentatively entitled State of the Field: Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism in Egypt, 1882-1922. It explores both the political economy of the Egyptian state and the role of political-economic thought in the struggle over British rule following the occupation of 1882.
For decades now, Egypt has long appeared as a classic case of peripheral development. From this perspective, British rule simply reinforced Egypt’s prior status as a producer of raw cotton and a market for manufactured goods from Europe. All but obscured in this version of things is Egypt’s emergence as a key site for investment and experimentation in the worldwide financial expansion that characterized global capitalism at the close of the nineteenth century. State of the Field tells for the first time the story of that financial boom and the protracted crisis that followed. And it argues that this long-neglected process of financialization was of central importance to the politics of British rule. Across the three decades of Britain’s “veiled protectorate,” State of the Field traces the complex career of the discourse I label “colonial economism.”
From the outset, British officials held that Egyptians, as political subjects, were capable of no more and no less than a recognition of their own bare material interests; the legitimacy of foreign rule would accordingly vary as a direct function of the “economic development” that British reform could deliver. In grappling with a discourse of colonial improvement that appeared to be succeeding on its own terms, Egypt’s early nationalist thinkers elaborated their own alternative accounts of the ephemeral and uneven qualities of financialization. They thereby articulated a range of rigorous, if fragmentary, critiques of the political-economic theories upon which Britain’s reforms had rested. In time, their efforts to find grounds for national sovereignty beyond the mere calculus of economic gain and loss influenced popular interpretations of such basic categories as crisis, progress, and independence.