Building a House in Heaven: Pious Neoliberalism and Islamic Charity in Egypt


Friday, November 21
3 to 5 pm
in Sidney Smith Hall, Room 2125

Islamic charities occupied a critical space in Mubarak-era Egypt. While there are a plethora of organizational types and categories, 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 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.

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 of 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).

Co-sponsored by:

Centre for Critical Development Studies, University of Toronto

Institute for Islamic Studies, University of Toronto

Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

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