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In colonial Egypt, the state introduced legal reforms that claimed to liberate Egyptians from the inhumanity of pre-colonial rule and elevate them to the status of human beings. These legal reforms intersected with a new historical consciousness that distinguished freedom from force and the human from the pre-human, endowing modern law with the power to accomplish but never truly secure this transition. Samera Esmeir offers a historical and theoretical account of the colonizing operations of modern law in Egypt. Investigating the law, both on the books and in practice, she underscores the centrality of the "human" to Egyptian legal and colonial history and argues that the production of "juridical humanity" was a constitutive force of colonial rule and subjugation. This original contribution queries long-held assumptions about the entanglement of law, humanity, violence, and nature, and thereby develops a new reading of the history of colonialism.
Challenging prevalent conceptualizations of modernity--which treat it either as a Western ideology imposed by colonialism or as a universal narrative of progress and innovation--this study instead offers close readings of the simultaneous performances and contestations of modernity staged in works by authors such as Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Tayeb Salih, Hanan al-Shaykh, Hamdi Abu Golayyel, and Ahmad Alaidy. In dialogue with affect theory, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis, the book reveals these trials to be a violent and ongoing confrontation with and within modernity. In pointed and witty prose, El-Ariss bridges the gap between Nahda (the so-called Arab project of Enlightenment) and postcolonial and postmodern fiction.
Bartolomé de Las Casas was the first and fiercest critic of Spanish colonialism in the New World. An early traveller to the Americas who sailed on one of Columbus's voyages, Las Casas was so horrified by the wholesale massacre he witnessed that he dedicated his life to protecting the Indian community. He wrote A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies in 1542, a shocking catalogue of mass slaughter, torture and slavery, which showed that the evangelizing vision of Columbus had descended under later conquistadors into genocide. Dedicated to Philip II to alert the Castilian Crown to these atrocities and demand that the Indians be entitled to the basic rights of humankind, this passionate work of documentary vividness outraged Europe and contributed to the idea of the Spanish 'Black Legend' that would last for centuries.
Many scholars believe that the modern concentration camp was born during the Cuban war for independence when Spanish authorities ordered civilians living in rural areas to report to the nearest city with a garrison of Spanish troops. But the practice of spatial concentration—gathering people and things in specific ways, at specific places, and for specific purposes—has a history in Latin America that reaches back to the conquest. In this paradigm-setting book, Daniel Nemser argues that concentration projects, often tied to urbanization, laid an enduring, material groundwork, or infrastructure, for the emergence and consolidation of new forms of racial identity and theories of race. Infrastructures of Race traces the use of concentration as a technique for colonial governance by examining four case studies from Mexico under Spanish rule: centralized towns, disciplinary institutions, segregated neighborhoods, and general collections. Nemser shows how the colonial state used concentration in its attempts to build a new spatial and social order, and he explains why the technique flourished in the colonies. Although the designs for concentration were sometimes contested and short-lived, Nemser demonstrates that they provided a material foundation for ongoing processes of racialization. This finding, which challenges conventional histories of race and mestizaje (racial mixing), promises to deepen our understanding of the way race emerges from spatial politics and techniques of population management.
Dangerous Speech is the first systematic treatment of blasphemous speech in colonial Mexico. This engaging social history examines the representation of blasphemy as a sin and a crime, and its repression by the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish colonists viewed blasphemy not only as an insult against God but also as a dangerous misrepresentation of the deity, which could call down his wrath in a ruinous assault on the imperial enterprise. Why then, asks Villa-Flores, did Spaniards dare to blaspheme? Having mined the periodÕs moral literatureÑphilosophical works as well as royal decrees and Inquisition treatises and trial records in Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. archives and research librariesÑVilla-Flores deftly interweaves images of daily life in colonial Mexico with vivid descriptions of human interactions to illustrate the complexity of a culture profoundly influenced by the Catholic Church. In entertaining and sometimes horrifying vignettes, the reader comes face to face with individuals who used language to assert or manipulate their identities within that repressive society. Villa-Flores offers an innovative interpretation of the social uses of blasphemous speech by focusing on specific groupsÑconquistadors, Spanish settlers, Spanish women, and slaves of both gendersÑas a lens to examine race, class, and gender relations in colonial Mexico. He finds that multiple motivations led people to resort to blasphemy through a gamut of practices ranging from catharsis and gender self-fashioning to religious rejection and active resistance. Dangerous Speech is a valuable resource for students and scholars of colonialism, the social history of language, Mexican history, and the changing relations of gender, class, and ethnicity in colonial Latin America.
Desert Borderland investigates the historical processes that transformed political identity in the easternmost reaches of the Sahara Desert in the half century before World War I. Adopting a view from the margins—illuminating the little-known history of the Egyptian–Libyan borderland—the book challenges prevailing notions of how Egypt and Libya were constituted as modern territorial nation-states. Matthew H. Ellis draws on a wide array of archival sources to reconstruct the multiple layers and meanings of territoriality in this desert borderland. Throughout the decades, a heightened awareness of the existence of distinctive Egyptian and Ottoman Libyan territorial spheres began to develop despite any clear-cut boundary markers or cartographic evidence. National territoriality was not simply imposed on Egypt's western—or Ottoman Libya's eastern—domains by centralizing state power. Rather, it developed only through a complex and multilayered process of negotiation with local groups motivated by their own local conceptions of space, sovereignty, and political belonging. By the early twentieth century, distinctive "Egyptian" and "Libyan" territorial domains emerged—what would ultimately become the modern nation-states of Egypt and Libya.
Genealogical Fictions examines how the state, church, Inquisition, and other institutions in colonial Mexico used the Spanish notion of limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) over time and how the concept's enduring religious, genealogical, and gendered meanings came to shape the region's patriotic and racial ideologies.

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