Published May 2, 2013 | Version v1
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When did Egyptians stop being Ottomans? An Imperial Citizenship Case Study

  • 1. Florida State University


  • 1. York University


Will Hanley's chapter, "When Did Egyptians Stop Being Ottomans? An Imperial Citizenship Case Study," is a nuanced study of the mutability of citizenship, particularly in contexts of questionable sovereignty. In this case, the context is the flexible, locally conditioned, and ephemeral nature of the imperial Ottoman presence in Egypt around the same time period as Elizabeth Dale's focus (in the next chapter), the end of the nineteenth century and start of the twentieth. Hanley demonstrates the persistence of the Egyptians' Ottoman status well into the twentieth century, evidence he argues has been neglected because the nature of Ottoman citizens'/subjects' membership in their state differs from European and American archetypes of citizenship. The triumph of a system of exclusive, universal, commensurate national citizenships is incomplete—Hanley argues that it cannot be completed, and that thinking of unitary citizenship as completable is misleading—and its advent is recent. Hanley contends that occluded variant systems of state affiliation, including that of turn-of-the-century Egyptian Ottomans, need to be recovered and compared, not least because citizenship in late Ottoman Egypt resembles developing forms of multilevel citizenship. This chapter shows, among other things, the fragility of censuses and government attempts to classify and categorize populations. It also lays out an example of a context in which citizenship is about jurisdiction rather than rights and in which taxation or exemption from taxation determines membership. Furthermore, the chapter illustrates again the importance to governments of residence and settlement: both the nomadic Bedouin and the foreign population were anomalous because they were mobile and exempt from the laws that governed other subjects. Hanley argues that the overwhelming focus of citizenship literature on political rights, especially democratic and electoral politics, deadens analysis of legal, social, civil, and other forms of citizenship. Ottoman-Egyptian citizenship was not democratic, and there can thus be no political consideration of it. When political rights are the measure, states in the Middle East must be judged dysfunctional and pathological, but it is possible to take a more positive view, seeing phenomena such as jurisdiction shopping, self-regulating communities, and differentiated rather than equal citizenship as illustrating how citizenship is actually experienced. This case also suggests parallels with indigenous peoples; with Roma and other nomads; and with legal "persons" such as corporations, which today claim exemptions from state laws, as discussed in Chapters 7, 10, and 11, as well as Chapter 6.



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