A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan

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A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan, by Eve M. Troutt Powell. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. xi + 220 pages. Illustrations. Notes to p. 240. Works cited to p. 250. Index to p. 260. $65 cloth; $24.95 paper.

In A Different Shade of Colonialism, Eve M. Troutt Powell examines Egypt's ambiguous relationship with the Sudan in the period from approximately 1800 to the late 1920s. She suggests that this relationship was complicated by Egypt's position as a "colonized colonizer" - that is, as an imperial power in the Nile Valley which itself became vulnerable first to French and later to British colonialism. Powell focuses on Sudan- or Sudanese-related commentaries by key Egyptian thinkers, including travelers, journalists, and others, many of whom (such as Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, Mustafa Kamil, and Huda Sha'rawi) played prominent roles in the making of modern Egypt.

Whereas Egyptians often cast themselves in the role of civilizing agents who had a mission to play in the Nile Valley, they often portrayed Sudanese as slaves and servants: this Powell shows after consulting a wide spectrum of 19th and early 20th century Arabic texts that range from fictional and non-fictional narratives to dialogue sequences in stories and plays, and even to political cartoons. These texts recurrently and stereotypicalIy characterized the Sudanese as sexually licentious, coarse and half-naked, and alternately passionate and dull-witted - namely, with traits that were the opposite of educated, rational refinement. Thus presented, the Sudanese offered ideal material for Egyptian civilizational tutelage and boosted Egyptian cultural and political morale, particularly after the British occupation of 1882 when Egypt became informally colonized.

Scholars and students of modern Egyptian history will find A Different Shade of Colonialism to be a fascinating and thoughtprovoking study. For a start, it is methodologically creative in marshaling literary texts for the study of Egyptian social and cultural history. It also presents an intriguing critique of imperialism in the region, by demonstrating that it operated not merely on an Occident-Orient (or in this case Britain-Egypt) model, but also according to local patterns of domination, as evinced by the rights and relations that Egyptians asserted (or tried to assert) vis-a-vis the Sudan. …