Backwards in High Heels: Liberal Education at the American University in Cairo




Lash, Jeffrey

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education


In his opening remarks to new faculty in the fall of 2000, the president of the American University in Cairo (AUC) suggested that operating an American liberal arts university in Cairo was analogous to dancing backwards in high heels. His point being that AUC must do everything an American university based in the United States does, but AUC has to do it in the context of its location in the heart of the Arab Middle East. My research examines the “milieu” (social, political, economic, and academic) of AUC as a combined ethnographic and geographic investigation. Toward this end, a combination of surveys and interviews of AUCians, and content analysis of university- related documents were used to clarify information and data at three scales of analysis. Micro scale data reveal a hybrid student population tom between the expectations of Egyptian society and career goals enhanced by an education at an American liberal arts university; macro scale data suggest a university held hostage by the structure of the global-political economy; while meso scale data reveal a faculty and an administration paralyzed by cultural politics.



ethnographic, geographic, liberal education


Lash, J. W. (2001). Backwards in high heels: Liberal education at the American University in Cairo. Research in Geographic Education, 3(1), pp. 86-91.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI