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Timothy Mitchell to lecture at the AUC next April

Mitchell will be lecturing in Cairo on 16 and 17 April on the Carbon Democracy and the Economentality at the American University in Cairo

Mohammed Saad , Sunday 10 Mar 2013
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Political theorist Timothy Mitchell, head of the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia, will be visiting Cairo next April giving two lectures at the American University in Cairo on 16 and 17 April.

The first lecture will be held under the title "Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil", at the Oriental Hall at the AUC Tahrir Campus at 6:00pm.

The second lecture will be held on 17 April, under the title "Economentality: How the future Entered Government" at the Mohammed Shafik Gabr Lectures Hall, AUC New Cairo Campus at 1:00pm.

Timothy Mitchell is a political theorist studying the political economy of the Middle East, the political role of economics, the politics of large-scale technical systems, and the place of colonialism in the making of modernity.

"He is one of the most important western theorists, working on Egyptian modern istory; he helped to reshape the Egyptian modern history through the rich material he provided in his books Colonizing Egypt and The Rule of Experts," historian and head of histroy at the AUC Khaled Fahmy told Ahram Online.

The lectures are co-sponsored by the History Department and the Middle East Studies Center.

Colonising Egypt was reprinted in Egypt last month by Madarat publishing house. The new issue includes a controversial preface, published with the book by the publishing house behind the book's translators, Bashir El-Sebai' and Ahmed Hassan. The new preface is said to argue the opposite of Mitchell ideas and contain "Jihadist" tendencies.

The Rule of Experts was translated and publishied by the Egyptian National Center for Translation (NCT) last year. It was translated by Bashir El-Sebai' and Historian Sherif Younis.

"Mitchell is very hard to be classified as either an historian or a political theorist; his work is distributed between many fields cuh as law, economy, history, philosophy and social sciences," Fahmy Said.

The first lecture will discuss Mitchell's latest book Carbon Democracy, published last year. It is currently being translated by Bashir El-Sebai' and Sherif Younis and is expected to be released from NCT.

The book challenges the traditional view of the relationship between oil and politics. According to Fahmy, traditionalists view oil as damaging to the political process because its revenues enable authoritarian regimes to postpone democratic reforms by distributing part of the revenues to the people. The imposition of fewer taxes makes regimes believe they are not obliged to represent their citizens' wishes.

Mitchell does not study the relationship between oil and political processes by focusing on revenue; instead he reflects on the physical nature of the oil itself and the industrial process that is necessary to excavate and refine oil. He also studies the relation between the workers in this field and their rights and the feasibility these workers have to protest and strike.

"The author of Colonising Egypt is important because he presents an unique case; he does not apply ready-made theories to the Egyptian reality. He prefers to do the field work in Egypt and gather the information; then he tries to extract his theories in law, authority and political economy," Fahmy said.

"For me he's the most important western intelelctual that has workd on Egypt and, dare I say that it, one of the most important western intellectuals." Fahmy added.

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