On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt
In this pioneering history of transportation and communication in the modern Middle East, On Barak argues that contrary to accepted wisdom technological modernity in Egypt did not drive a sense of time focused on standardization only. Surprisingly, the introduction of the steamer, railway, telegraph, tramway, and telephone in colonial Egypt actually triggered the development of unique timekeeping practices that resignified and subverted the typical modernist infatuation with expediency and promptness. These countertempos, predicated on uneasiness over “dehumanizing” European standards of efficiency, sprang from and contributed to non-linear modes of arranging time.
Barak shows how these countertempos formed and developed with each new technological innovation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, contributing to a particularly Egyptian sense of time that extends into the present day, exerting influence over contemporary political language in the Arab world. The universal notion of a modern mechanical standard time and the deviations supposedly characterizing non-Western settings “from time immemorial,” On Time provocatively argues, were in fact mutually constitutive and mutually reinforcing.
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Abāz.ah abstract accidents Ah.mad Al-Ahrām al-Dīn Al-Hilal Al-Manār al-Misriyah Alexandria anticolonial Arabic barzakh British cable Cairo Cambridge camels chapter clock coal colonial communication connection corvée cotton Counterclockwise Revolution critique Cromer cultural decade delays diorama Double Standards drivers Effendi Hauntologies Egypt Egyptian railway electric Empire engine Europe European example fatwās foreign Gregorian Gregorian calendar Harmonization Hauntologies Ibid India introduced Islamic Ismāʿīl January jinn Khedive labor London mawlids mechanical Mis.r Misr modern Mubārak Muh.ammad Mūsā Naguib Mahfouz nationalist newspaper Nile nineteenth century operators Ottoman Ottoman Empire Overland Route passengers peasants Politics of Slowness punctuality reveals Rid.ā schedules Slavoj Žižek social speed stations steam steamer streetcar Suez synchronization Tashri at wa-Manshūrāt telegrams telegraph telephone temporal teredo time-is-money timekeeping tion train tramway trans transportation University Press Upper Egypt Urban Politics Wādī al-Nīl Wafdists Waghorn Walter Benjamin women workers Zaghlūl ʿAbd ʿafārīt