Between the Ottomans and the Entente: the First World War in the Syrian and Lebanese Diaspora, 1908-1925
March 2019 | Oxford University Press
Since 2011 over 5.6 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and beyond, and another 6.6 million are internally displaced. The contemporary flight of Syrian refugees comes one century after the region’s formative experience with massive upheaval, displacement, and geopolitical intervention: the First World War.
In this book, Stacy Fahrenthold examines the politics of Syrian and Lebanese migration around the period of the First World War. Some half million Arab migrants, nearly all still subjects of the Ottoman Empire, lived in a diaspora concentrated in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. They faced new demands for their political loyalty from Istanbul, which commanded them to resist European colonialism. From the Western hemisphere, Syrian migrants grappled with political suspicion, travel restriction, and outward displays of support for the war against the Ottomans. From these diasporic communities, Syrians used their ethnic associations, commercial networks, and global press to oppose Ottoman rule, collaborating with the Entente powers because they believed this war work would bolster the cause of Syria’s liberation. Between the Ottomans and the Entente shows how these communities in North and South America became a geopolitical frontier between the Young Turk Revolution and the early French Mandate. It examines how empires at war-from the Ottomans to the French-embraced and claimed Syrian migrants as part of the state-building process in the Middle East. In doing so, they transformed this diaspora into an epicenter for Arab nationalist politics.
Drawing on transnational sources from migrant activists, this wide-ranging work reveals the degree to which Ottoman migrants “became Syrians” while abroad and brought their politics home to the post-Ottoman Middle East.
“Between the Ottomans and the Entente sits creatively at the juncture of international and migration histories of Lebanese and Syrian mobility. As crucial moments of nation-building, early twentieth-century revolution and war forced migrants around the Atlantic to re-think their identities and loyalties, along with their networks of ‘foreign relations’ and connections to home, often while strategically eyeing would-be leaders seeking diaspora support or submission. Threaded throughout is an exquisite and concrete historian’s tale of how migrants become invisible in resolutely state-centered archives and systems of governance.”
—Donna R. Gabaccia, University of Toronto, author of Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective
“Stacy Fahrenthold overturns what we thought we knew about the bid for Syrian independence after World War I. In rich detail based on documents from four continents, she recounts how emigres who still enjoyed Ottoman citizenship clamored for Syrian independence under an American mandate. Her story relates how the old diplomacy enacted a ‘sorting’ of migrants and populations with tragic consequences for Syria. And it stranded populations in an episode that eerily prefigured the great Syrian migration crisis of 2015. Fahrenthold forces us to reconsider Syrian-Arab history from the transnational perspective already accorded to the great wave of European migration in the late nineteenth century and to the Indian and Jewish diasporas.”
—Elizabeth F. Thompson, American University, author of Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon
“With eloquent prose, expansive research, and probing analysis Stacy Fahrenthold forces us to rethink the rise of nationalism in the Middle East beyond parochial boundaries and to understand the central role the diaspora played in shaping its institutions. With this work, Fahrenthold establishes herself as a promising scholar in the field of migration studies.”
—Akram Khater, Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, North Carolina State University, author of Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon
“A groundbreaking book that contributes to the historiography of the modern Levant, imperial and international relations, histories of war and migration, and Syrian diasporic politics. Fahrenthold’s conceptually-rich approach is accompanied by impressive methodological rigor as she tracks migratory routes into multiple archives, official and non-official, to uncover complex social and political worlds. This is a crisp and engaging read and a necessary one for anyone interested in why and how the mahjar matters.”
—Sarah Gualtieri, University of Southern California, author of Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora