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A Cairene Way of Reconciling

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Egyptians frequently solve conflicts without referring to state law. The scholarly examination of customary law and reconciliation has focused primarily on rural Upper Egypt, where the mechanisms of reconciliation (sulha) display a formal character. My aim here is to highlight the special features of reconciliation in an urban context by analyzing a conflict between two families in a suburb of Cairo. I argue that although the diputants talk about sulha as a formal and established system, this 'tradition' is shaped in the interaction between the two parties and adapted to the particular urban context in which the dispute occured. Second, in public and in a situation of conflict, the disputants portray honor, identity and tradition as static and essential qualities. However, the contingent nature of their understanding of notions such as state-law, revenge, reconciliation and the proper way to behave emerges from our analysis of the discussions that took place between and among the members of one family involved in the dispute.


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