My ethnographic research in Egypt orbits around the notion of the ‘project’ (mashru‘). The study takes off from the observation that almost all men I meet in Egypt these days, regardless of social background, are on the hunt for a ‘project’: a business venture or investment that could provide additional incomes, increased social status, or opportunities for more lucrative work. In parallel, Egypt’s military-led government is spending huge resources on spectacular mega-projects, such as a New Suez Canal and a New Administrative Capital in the desert east of Cairo. Taking its orientation from anthropological studies of value, my research aims at identifying how projects of vastly varying scales generate similar or not so similar values. How does a project materialise futures and produce social and communal values that include but also exceed the monetary? How does its relative location – the ways in which it is connected and disconnected to places elsewhere – matter for what project is, does, envisions and promises? How is the widespread urge to set up projects linked to the current moment in Egyptian history, an historical juncture marked by austerity, economic decline and counterrevolutionary resets? What can it tell us about masculinity in contemporary Egypt?
Up until now (spring 2018), my research has been based primarily on fieldwork among football coaches, small-scale investors, and a company constructing artificial grass pitches across the Egyptian capital. My field research has allowed me to follow men who conjure, finance, and materialise valuable projects and futures within Cairo’s grassroots football industry. In the coming months and years, I will extend my investigation to time-spaces where the state executes projects on a markedly grander scale. I am also interested in exploring the threats of rising sea levels and flooding along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. Here, notably, the state is not very keen on acting. Even though the dangers are immense, few projects are currently underway.