Struggles of Distinction: Young Women Constructing Their Class Identity in Egypt’s Americanized Milieu

  • Sina Birkholz The Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University
Keywords: Upper Middle Class, Milieu, Youth, Egypt, Westernization, Cosmopolitan Capital, Distinction


In urban Egypt, class is omnipresent in structuring people's lives and the social sphere as well as being operative in selfdescription. For understanding an individual's position within the horizontally and vertically stratified society, however, the usual distinction of three classes needs to be refined. Based on biographical interviews, I reconstruct what my interviewees consider their "Americanized Society" and try to grasp their self-categorization as upper middle class. In line with much of Bourdieu's thinking on social stratification, I treat their self-positioning as upper middle class as a form of discursive categorization which can only be understood if contextualized by the negative image of "the poor" and "the rich." The Americanized Society, on the other hand, can best be conceptualized as a milieu where different classificatory principles intersect.

Author Biography

Sina Birkholz, The Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University

is a researcher at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at Bielefeld University. In the international project “Violence, Research and Development,” Sina coordinates cooperation with Egypt and leads the research line “Justifications and Legitimacy of Police Violence,” focusing on processes of political (de-) legitimization. Sina studied Political Science and Psychology at Augsburg University (Germany) and the University of St. Andrews (Scotland). She wrote her graduation thesis on “Identities at Crossroads: Young Muslim Women in Post-Revolutionary Egypt.” Sina has spent more than two years in Egypt, among other things doing research on women, youth, and their role in the revolution.