Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Resilience, Mêtis and Survival: How Egyptian Women Outsmart the Ills of Global Capitalism

Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Resilience, Mêtis and Survival: How Egyptian Women Outsmart the Ills of Global Capitalism

Article excerpt

The fruits of global capitalist policies in developing countries rarely reach the poor. With structural adjustment policies in the developing world resulting in the privatization of public firms and the curbing of public services, this in turn, leads to the marginalization of the poor, an increase in rural to urban migration, and higher rates of poverty and unemployment (Katsulis, 2010, p. 121; Moghadam, 2005). Among the most vulnerable groups that suffer from these capitalist policies are women who endure the indignities of increased workloads; the burden of feeding their families with fewer resources; lack of subsidized foods and public health services, and in some cases, increased gender violence and even prostitution (Campbell & Parfitt 1995; Moghadam 2005; Sassen 2000). In Egypt, accelerated World Bank and International Monetary Fund structural adjustment policies were imposed by the government in the 1990s (El-Hamidi, 2008). Moghadam (2005) suggests that the "poverty-inducing nature of neoliberal restructuring has been especially severe on women" (p. 2). Moghadam argues that these policies have caused drastic drops in wages in women-dominated sectors; have increased unemployment for women in the public sector, and have resulted in inadequate access for women to education and health services. Faced with such public exclusion, more women increasingly turn to micro enterprises for financial inclusion and empowerment. In Egypt, many women living below the national poverty line seek microloans (or microfinance, microcredit, community development finance) to subsist and to gain empowerment to survive amidst such capitalist restructuring (Affleck and Mellor , 2006).

In this essay, I examine Egyptian women's survival tactics to counter the dominant capitalist public sphere. This analysis is based on data from qualitative interviews I conducted with three Egyptian female microclients. I chose phone interviews as an appropriate method for my study, as I was able to hear firsthand from these women about their individual experiences with microloans. These women discussed in detail the dire economic conditions of their individual families. They also explained how they were introduced to microloans, how they applied for loans, the size of their loans, and the overall impact of these loans on their lives and their families' wellbeing. Additional sources that I relied on in this study included newspaper articles and microlending research, where Egyptian female loan clients were quoted.

The study examines the women's tactics to resist the ills of global capitalist policies. I apply the classical Greek rhetorical concept of mêtis or "cunning" to examine how Egyptian women handle the material effects of microlending. In Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, Marcel Detienne and Jean Pierre Vernant (1978) define mêtis to include "forms of wiley intelligence, of effective, adaptable cunning..." that are applied in "situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and abigious..." (p. 3-4). In this essay, I argue that Egyptian female micro-clients perform acts of cunning intelligence in their struggle to survive the brutalities of global capitalist policies, which tend to shiftthe local and national economic landscape in unpredictable ways. Yet, given the negative connotation of the term "cunning," in the English language, I intend to substitute it with the synonym "crafty" in order to better clarify these women's resourceful and innovative methods of survival. Next, I draw on Cindy Katz's (2004) notion of resilience in my analysis of Egyptian women's reaction to the ills of exploitative global policies. In Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children's Everyday Lives, Katz (2004) argues that acts of resilience are acts sustained by people in times of hardship or challenging circumstances that enable these people to survive the hardships without trying to alter these conditions. I apply Katz's notion of resilience here to demonstrate how women use microcredit as a form of resistance to Egypt's megarhetoric of development. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.