My contribution focuses on the question of ruination as a keyword to make sense of the affective and material relationship to cityness in Egypt. I use ruination in the sense developed by Ann Laura Stoler. In Imperial Debris (2013) and Duress (2016), Stoler differentiates between ruins and ruination. Ruins, she argues, invite a privileged sense of reflection. Ruination, by contrast, emphasises by a critical positioning of the present within violent structures. In this sense, ruination is an ongoing process with multiple temporalities at work. This understanding, I find, empowers a critical engagement with processes of material and social undoing that divests from a fascination with ruins and questions the political complicity in processes of ruination instead (Stoler 2013, 9-11). This understanding intersects with Yael Navaro-Yashin’s use of the concept as a metaphor in studying abject space (2012, 170). Navaro-Yashin’s ethnographic use emphasises the sense of aftermath, ‘material remains or artefacts of destruction and violence’ (2012, 162) as well as ‘subjectivities and residual affects that linger, like a hangover, in the aftermath of violence’ (2012, 162). While these two theoretical inspirations intersect, I am primarily interested in the complex and non-linear temporalities that bear weight on the present and the future. The way I combine the question of materiality and affect is through a concept of geopoetics and in this piece I want to focus on a geopoetics of dust. I will use this to think about Ruination as promise and hope, and the leftover of ruination, dust or clutter, both circulating in Cairene spaces.

Aya Nassar is a researcher learning about Cairo. She is interested in storytelling, materiality, elemental geography and postcolonial cityness. She is an assistant professor of human geography in Durham University where she teaches political and urban geography as well as geographies of development.