These articles seek to highlight the changing social dynamics in Middle Eastern and South Asian cities. The comparative framework builds on a shared history of the colonial encounter, modernity, nationalism and urbanity and is further deepened by the larger framework of Muslim culture that influences social life in both spaces. The various chapters rethink the gendered dimension of public spaces and investigate the relationship between the popular and the political in these regions. They also take into account how larger structural changes in South Asia/ the Middle East have impacted the practices and experiences of people. This focus addresses the lack of social histories that explore urban life-worlds in an era of de-industrialization and major structural changes such as are available for many cities in other regions of the world. It hence provides an interdisciplinary analysis that informs us about how transnational flows of ideas and resources shape certain responses to deprivation and marginality, yet also encourage political passivity and inaction. Raising such questions in a comparative context is essential to refocus research agendas and to inspire new studies.
The volume is unique as, for the first time, it puts the field of urban studies within the two regions in a dialogue with each other and with similar efforts across the globe.
Kamran Asdar Ali is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Middle East Studies and Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. He previously taught at the University of Rochester and was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (1998-99). He is the co-editor of Gendering Urban Space in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa (Palgrave 2008) with Martina Rieker, with whom he also coordinates the Shehr Network on Comparative Urban
Landscapes. He is the author of Planning the Family in Egypt: New Bodies, New Selves (UT Press, 2002), and has also published several articles on issues of health and gender in Egypt and on Pakistani politics and popular culture. His more recent work has been on ethnic, class, and gender issues in Pakistan and he is
currently finishing a book length manuscript on the social history of the working class movement during Pakistan's early years.
Martina Rieker is Director of the Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the American University in Cairo and has published articles on the politics of heritage in the Middle East. She is currently working on a project on gender, poverty, and urbanism in the global south. She coordinates the Shehr Network on Comparative Urban Landscapes with Kamran Asdar Ali. Recent edited Shehr publications include: Gendering Urban Space in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa (Palgrave
2008) and a special issue of Social Text titled 'Urban Margins: Envisioning the Contemporary Global South', vol. 26, no. 95 (Summer 2008).