It is hard to fathom now but this book has been twelve years in the making
and perhaps even longer in the dreaming. The dreaming cannot be ac-
knowledged here properly, so I will focus on the tangible work and those
who made it possible. I say twelve years because the very first seminar
paper I wrote for Zachary Lockman at New York University was the seed
from which all else has grown; indeed much of chapter 1 and some of
chapter 2 are based on the research I conducted for that original essay.
It is a testament to Professor Lockman’s enormous capacity for creative
guidance that he did not put an end to the marathon journey before it
started; his wise counsel has been and remains important to me. My teach-
ers and mentors at nyu—Michael Gilsenan, Molly Nolan, Khaled Fahmy,
Timothy Mitchell, and Lisa Duggan—have not only contributed in sig-
nificant ways to what appears between these covers but have also made
a huge impression on the type of scholar I am today. If there are weak-
nesses or faults in the book, as there are sure to be, I am solely respon-
sible for these. From an earlier period, there are other teachers whose im-
print remains an indelible factor in my thinking about the Middle East,
about history, and about the postcolonial: the late Hana Batatu, John
Ruedy, Judith Tucker, the late Hisham Sharabi, and Lalitha Gopalan at
Georgetown University. If I had to single out my most influential teacher,
it would be Martina Rieker, who taught me at the American University in
Cairo (auc); she showed me that there are other intellectual and personal
horizons to explore and opened the door to worlds previously unimagined
or thought impossible.
Studying and researching in Egypt have been among the greatest joys
of my life. Of course there were the normal and, on occasion, extraor-
dinary hassles of bureaucratic oversight, but the luxury of swimming in
someone else’s historical sea and of thinking through someone else’s cul-
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