Sarah El-Kazaz, "Politics in the Crevices: Urban Design and the Making of Property Markets in Cairo and Istanbul" (Duke UP, 2023)


In Politics in the Crevices: Urban Design and the Making of Property Markets in Cairo and Istanbul (Duke UP, 2023), Sarah El-Kazaz takes readers into the world of urban planning and design practices in Istanbul and Cairo. In this transnational ethnography of neighborhoods undergoing contested rapid transformations, she reveals how the battle for housing has shifted away from traditional political arenas onto private crevices of the city. She outlines how multiple actors—from highly capitalized international NGOs and corporations to city dwellers, bureaucrats, and planning experts—use careful urban design to empower conflicting agendas, whether manipulating property markets to protect affordable housing or corner luxury real estate. El-Kazaz shows that such contemporary politicizations of urban design stem from unresolved struggles at the heart of messy transitions from the welfare state to neoliberalism, which have shifted the politics of redistribution from contested political arenas to design practices operating within market logics, ultimately relocating political struggles onto the city’s most intimate crevices. In so doing, she raises critical questions about the role of market reforms in redistributing resources and challenges readers to rethink neoliberalism and the fundamental ways it shapes cities and polities.

Sarah El-Kazaz is Associate Professor in the politics department at SOAS, University of London. Her research interests include: critical political economy, urbanism, infrastructure and digital politics, and her new book project investigates the politics of digital infrastructures by following “Cloud” technologies across the Global South. Her work appears in peer-reviewed journals including: Comparative Studies in Society and History, and City and Society. She previously taught at Oberlin College, and completed a PhD at Princeton University.

Lamis Abdelaaty is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She is the author of Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees (Oxford University Press, 2021). Email her comments at

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Lamis Abdelaaty

Dr. Lamis Abdelaaty is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and Senior Research Associate at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. Her book, Discrimination and Delegation: Explaining State Responses to Refugees, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Email her at
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