December 10, 2019: more big news! Between the Ottomans and the Ententehas been awarded the Syrian Studies Association’s 2019 Book Prize. Awarded annually for over fifteen years, the SSA awards recognize scholars whose recent work has made a distinguished contribution to the field of Syrian Studies. From the award committee’s announcement:
“This transnational history of migration and migration politics pushes the narrative of World War I in the Middle East into the Americas and, at the same time, challenges traditional territorial conceptions of Syria and Lebanon. By combining trans-Atlantic Arabic newspapers with U.S. and French archival documents, Fahrenthold demonstrates that the mahjar exerted considerable influence on the Mashriq. Both the Ottomans and the French paid careful attention to the political mood and investment capital in the Levantine diaspora. The value of the work is self-evident to historians of the modern bilad-al-Sham; In the 1920s, the mahjar became a salient factor in determining where the new borders would lie and who would be included in the nations in the Levant. Moreover, historians of the United States will find a fascinating account on the making of early U.S. foreign policy toward the post-Ottoman Arab world and U.S. policies on migration from the Middle East. In the age of mass Syrian refugee migration, Fahrenthold’s beautifully written book enriches our knowledge about the transnational Levantine diaspora.”
The full-text announcement appears in the Fall 2019 Syrian Studies Association Bulletin. I’m floored, at this point, that the work is making its mark in Middle Eastern studies and want to thank the SSA for their engagement with my book!
I am absolutely elated to learn thatmy book had been honored in this way. The Khayrallah Center has been foundational in giving Middle Eastern migration studies a home, and it is an privilege to be recognized by colleagues working to deepen our understandings of how migration and refugee systems continue to make/remake the region. My thanks go to the selection committee for their engagement with this work. To the rest of the mahjar studies field: thank you and I look forward to our next conversations.
“Stacy Fahrenthold’s Between the Ottomans and the Entente is a tour-de-force of transnational history. Written in a fluent, clear, humane style, it recounts in gripping, analytically penetrating fashion the shifting responses of Syro-Lebanese migrants living in the Americas to the tumultuous events and rapidly changing circumstances of the early twentieth-century Eastern Mediterranean, from the Ottoman constitutional revolution of July 1908 to the Ottoman entry into the First World War in November 1914 and the declaration of a French mandate over Syria in 1920. Drawing on a wide range of sources in Arabic, French, Spanish and English – from periodicals and private correspondence to criminal investigations and diplomatic exchanges – it moves nimbly between the United States, Latin America and the Middle East, and between social and political history, reconstructing in turn the doings of a group of Syrian and Lebanese migrants who lobbied for an American mandate over their native land and the activities of people smugglers. In short, this is a signal achievement – a piece of painstaking scholarship which offers much fresh insight and food for thought to scholars of the Middle East, migration, Arab diasporas, the First World War, and America in the world.”
August 23 2019: this week Jadaliyya excerpted a portion of Between the Ottomans and the Entente together with a brief interview about the project for their “New Texts Out Now” series. The full interview can be viewed at this link:
This book begins with a deceptively simple idea: that mass migration from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine shaped Middle Eastern politics at the end of the Ottoman period and that consequently, the “mahjar matters.” But there is more to it than this: the effacement of migrants and diasporas from histories of the region—usually by means of reliance on state archives and state-centric modes of inquiry—has produced a fictive rift in the historiography of the Levant. The European Mandates established after World War I not only enacted policies to partition the Mashriq from the mahjar, but in doing so it also generated specific legal fictions about the mahjar that persist in popular memory until now.
June 21 2019: this week, New Books Network featured Between the Ottomans and the Entente on their Middle East Studies podcast. Host Joshua Donovan and I discuss the book’s contributions to the fields of migration studies and new histories of the First World War, as well as the resonances between this moment a century ago and our own time. NBN offers a brief review and the interview here:
“Between the Ottomans and the Entente shows how diaspora communities grappled with a series of enormous changes to their homeland from the Young Turk Revolution (1908), to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, and the imposition of the French Mandate in 1920. The book vividly illustrates the precarious position Syrians and Lebanese found themselves in as they occupied a fraught liminal space in Ottoman, French, and American law. Even so, Fahrenthold stresses the agency of the Syrian and Lebanese diaspora, which organized, petitioned, recruited soldiers for the Entente, and engaged in contentious debates over what a post-Ottoman Middle East should look like. Written in the midst of the horrific Syrian refugee crisis, as well as a rising tide of xenophobia and trenchant nationalism around the globe, Fahrenthold’s exploration of migration, citizenship, repatriation, and an early American “Muslim ban” invite the reader to reflect on both past and present.”
June 4 2019: a new piece I wrote for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia went live this week, on labor migrants from Ottoman Syria, Mount Lebanon, and Palestine to the Americas. The piece sums up the state of the field in mahjar studies for an introductory audience, and also lays a foundation for thinking about labor and working-class histories in this diaspora. My hope is that it will be useful for scholars looking to bring class back into histories of Middle Eastern migrations, and/or who would like to broach these topics in the undergraduate classroom.
Between 1880 and 1924, an estimated half million Arab migrants left the Ottoman Empire to live and work in the Americas. Responding to new economic forces linking the Mediterranean and Atlantic capitalist economies to one another, Arab migrants entered the manufacturing industries of the settler societies they inhabited, including industrial textiles, small-scale commerce (peddling), heavy machining, and migrant services associated with continued immigration from the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire enacted few policies to halt emigration from Syria, Mount Lebanon, and Palestine, instead facilitating a remittance economy that enhanced the emerging cash economies of the Arab world. After 1920, the French Mandate in Syria and Lebanon moved to limit new migration to the Americas, working together with increasingly restrictive immigration regimes in the United States, Argentina, and Brazil to halt Arab labor immigration. Using informal archives, the Arab American press, and the records of diasporic mutual aid and philanthropic societies, new research in Arab American migration illustrates how migrants managed a transnational labor economy and confronted challenges presented by American nativism, travel restriction, and interwar deportations.
May 10, 2019- I learned this week that Between the Ottomans and the Entente received its first press review! The book was featured on The New Arab/ al-Araby al-Jadid’s book club section, where it was reviewed by Usman Butt. From the review:
The book opens up new avenues for researching political history of the Middle East. We are challenged to think about how migration impacts the politics of Syria and perhaps gives us historical perspective on what the current Syrian refugee crisis might mean.
3 May 2019: A new brief piece I wrote for Jadaliyya and the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) is up this week! It features thoughts on the genealogy, the commitments, and the future of “mahjar studies” as well as an introductory reading list for scholars interested in learning more about migration from the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean. It is limited to English-language historiography on the period 1870-1930, but I think it will give a great introduction to the field for students looking to engage this work.
“Between the 1870s and the 1930s, a half million people departed the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean for points abroad. Part of a larger pattern of migration from the Ottoman Empire, numerous Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian communities established themselves before the First World War, principally in the Americas (with the largest communities in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States) but also in West Africa, Europe, and the Philippines. A growing body of scholarship documents the formation, societies, and politics of the Arabic-speaking mahjar (diaspora), working across Middle Eastern, US/Latin American, and global scales to reconstruct the dense commercial, intellectual, and affective ties which held this geography together.”
March 27, 2019- a new piece I wrote appears on the German Historical Institute’s new blog on Migrant Knowledge. It centers on a 1909 booklet written by a Syrian American immigration inspector, and explores advice literature as an immigrant genre.
The GHI-West at University of California, Berkeley is building a new research project on the juncture between these two topics: migration and knowledge. They hosted several migration scholars at UCB for a workshop last October, and the blog posts are partly the result of conversations started there. I look forward to reading more from the other workshop participants on topics as varied as Mennonite drug smuggling in Mexico; the WPA project; Angolan labor migration; rum and coerced migration; and Middle Eastern migrants on Costa Rice. (For the blog’s mission statement, check out Migrant Knowledge‘s “About” page).
4 March 2019: this week, the Ottoman History Podcast has released an episode featuring my new book, Between the Ottomans and the Entente. In this interview, we discuss the Syrian and Lebanese mahjar during the First World War and the early French Mandate of the 1920s, touching on migration, travel restriction, displacement, and the Mandate’s attempt to partition the mahjar from the Mashriq.
15 February 2019: Today I received the first copy of my new book, Between the Ottomans and the Entente: the First World War in the Syrian and Lebanese Diasporain the mail! The book is an actual object, headed out into the world. I am very excited to share this project with you, and hope it will make a good contribution to conversations at the intersections of migration and refugee histories, transnational politics, partition and diaspora, and the “making of” the modern Middle East.
OUP is offering a 30 percent discount on preorders with code AAFLYG6. The formal release date is March 18, but I hear preorder copies are being mailed out as early as Monday. If you pick up a copy, I would love to hear your thoughts on the work, and welcome any inquiries via email at email@example.com.
Thank you to all of the scholars, friends, and archivists who helped me realize this work, whether by reading drafts, offering commentary, or chatting on Twitter/Facebook. I hope I have honored the migrant stories I’ve told here. Thank you all.