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The omitted heritage : rethinking the global requalification of historical industries in non-Western countries. The case of the cotton presses in Egypt

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1:30 PM, Monday 29 Aug 2022 (20 minutes)

The Western countries are de facto the pioneers of modern industrialization, which competed to extend their technological prowess worldwide. They even took the first steps and succeeded in acknowledging and safeguarding their industrial heritage on a global level. Egypt was one of countries in which Western countries extended their technological and colonial power. This took shape especially following Egypt’s Cotton Boom since the second half of the XIXth century. Presently, acknowledging and safeguarding industrial witnesses in Egypt is still lagged behind.

A number of western studies focused predominantly on giving credit and attributing the success of the global industrial history to the still-standing industrial structures in the West. The author of this paper, however, argues that a large number of these thought-to-be comprehensive studies merely explored a one-sided historical narrative. Is the history of the industrial development only accredited to and represented by those extant Western grandiose industrial structures? How far can the reinterpretation of non-Western industrial structures identify shared industrial development narratives?

With the help of archival research, experts’ interviews, and observations, the aim of this paper is to reconstruct western(de)centric narratives. The aim is to shed light on western(de)centricbased industries that were one of the catalysts in the development of the industrial history globally, especially cotton. This is presented in the case study of the historical cotton presses in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. With the help of Thompson’s Rubbish Theory, the study focuses qualitatively on investigating the cognitive cultural transfers of the cotton presses, then and now. The paper results in elucidating shared narratives and value transformations in Egypt and western countries, where both took different acknowledgment leap paths between disregard and signification. In turn, it reinterprets the symbolic qualification of these industrial structures in Egypt beyond their state of omission within the global heritage discourse. By raising discursive questions rather than stating factual answers, this paper exposes the void that exists regarding post-colonial shared industrial heritage that should be ascribed and considered in future research, territorial, and albeit challenging, extraterritorial heritage discourse.

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