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Pious Neoliberalism and Islamic Charity in Egypt

  • Mona Atia


Islamic charities occupied a critical space in Mubarak-era Egypt. While there are a plethora of organizational types and activities, Mona Atia describes a particular type of work performed by Islamic charities as a merging of religious and capitalist subjectivity, or pious neoliberalism. Pious neoliberalism describes how Islamism works in conjunction with neoliberalism rather than as an alternative to it. It represents a new compatibility between business and piety that is not specific to any religion, but rather is a result of the ways in which religion and economy interact in the contemporary moment. In Egypt, pious neoliberalism produces new institutions, systems of knowledge production and subjectivities. This lecture explores the relationship between Islamic charity and Egypt’s variegated religious landscape. The author will discuss how Islamic charities helped spread Islamic practices outside the space of the mosque and into everyday life/spaces and their impact on development in Egypt.

Speaker Bio

Mona Atia is Associate Professor of Geography and International Affairs at the George Washington University. She received her PhD in Geography at the University of Washington, where she received the 2008 Distinguished Dissertation Award. She holds a MSc in Cities, Space and Society from the London School of Economics and a BS in Business Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. Professor Atia is a critical development geographer whose areas of expertise include Islamic charity and finance, philanthropy and humanitarianism, and the production of poverty knowledge. She is author of Building a House in Heaven: Pious Neoliberalism and Islamic Charity in Egypt (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). She currently holds an NSF CAREER Award for her project "The Impact of Poverty Mapping on the Geography of Development."