The public sphere of the bourgeois effendiya, reflected in the sources that dominate the historiography Egypt before World War One, engaged only a narrow set of ideas about political membership. But police and legal records show that many residents of Egypt relied on a more generic and flexible label—“local”—which they refined in contradistinction to foreign nationalities. The term had a clear social meaning, particularly in imperial context, where it was a polite synonym of “native.” Localness began to gather a legal garb, particularly in the sphere of social rights such as education and government employment, until it began to resemble a nationality. This chapter argues that one key to explaining Egypt’s political quiescence between 1882 and 1919 is recognizing identity formation taking place under the banner of “local” status, rather than the more familiar category of Egyptian national citizen, which emerged only in the decades that followed.
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