Shop Floor Culture and Politics in Egypt

By Samer S. Shehata

Subjects: Middle East Studies, Politics, Sociology Of Work
Series: SUNY series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East
Paperback : 9781438428505, 275 pages, July 2010
Hardcover : 9781438428499, 275 pages, October 2009

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Notes on Translations and Transliterations
1. Introduction
Approaches to Social Class and Class Structure
Method: Choosing Cases and Factories and the Logic of Fieldwork and Participant Observation
Structure of the Book
2. Plastic Sandals, Tea, and Time: Shop Floor Culture and the Production of Class in Egypt
Workers’ Experiences at Work
Who Is a Worker?
Producing Difference
Time and Wages
The Structure of the Workday
Shop Floor Culture
3. The Labor Process
The Labor Process and Resistance
The Production Process in the Wool Preparations Department
The Labor Process on the Winding Machine
Resistance and the Labor Process at MIDIA
Resistance and the Labor Process at Misr Textiles
Resistance Strategies Compared: MIDIA and Misr Textiles
Machine Design, Technology, and Workers’ Practices
Fathy and “Output Restriction”
4. Indiscipline and Unruly Practices
Thorstein Veblen and Sabotage
Resistance: Michel Foucault and James Scott
Evasion and Escape: The Art of Getting Lost
Subversive Discourse and Narratives of Resistance
5. In the Basha’s House
The CEO as Leviathan
Presidential Visits
Engineers and Shift Supervisors
Musical Chairs
Shift Supervisors and Workers
The Ideology of Authoritarian Social Relations
6. Ethnography, Identity, and the Production of Knowledge: Or How I Know What I Know About Egyptian Workers and Factories
Regional Background
Conclusion: Practical Knowledge and Theoretical Insight
7. Conclusion

Ethnographic study of textile factory workers in Alexandria, Egypt.


In Shop Floor Culture and Politics in Egypt, Samer S. Shehata provides us with a unique and detailed ethnographic portrait of life within two large textile factories in Alexandria, Egypt. Working for nearly a year as a "winding machine operator" provided Shehata with unprecedented access to workers at the point of production and the activities of the work hall. He argues that the social organization of production in the factories—including company rules and procedures, hierarchy, and relations of authority—and shop floor culture profoundly shape what it means to be a "worker" and how this identity is understood. Shehata reveals how economic relations inside the factory are simultaneously relations of significance and meaning, and how the production of wool and cotton textiles is, at the same time, the production of categories of identity, patterns of human interaction, and understandings of the self and others.

Samer S. Shehata is Assistant Professor of Arab Politics at Georgetown University.