This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to look back to the interwar period; to the changing space of the urban downtown and the commercial and sartorial practices that circulated there; to recast the Cairo Fire as both rupture and continuity—as a culmination of the hybridized society that grew in the first half of the century and a break with that world and its attendant versions of Egyptian nationalism. It argues that the specific materiality of the space of the colonial city and the goods purveyed there fostered a flexible and intimate culture of consumption in which local residents moved through transitional spaces, combined items of sartorial style, and understood themselves to be Egyptian. The chapter then discusses politics consumption and colonialism, and this is followed by an overview of the subsequent chapters.
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