In Arab American studies, it’s long been understood that Syrian immigrants became “legally white” in 1915’s George Dow v United States. This access to whiteness was critical in getting access to US citizenship. However, US laws governing Syrian racial status also bore implications beyond the US context. Starting with Dow (1915), this chapter examines the implications of wartime laws governing Syrian and Lebanese ethnicity in the United States on emerging nationality codes post-1918. It argues that a “Syrian American legal exceptionalism” in US law divided Arabic-speaking Ottoman immigrants from other Ottoman groups for the purposes of wartime mobilization. US laws set a precedent for the first post-Ottoman laws governing national origins as France asserted itself as Syria and Lebanon’s administration. In sum, the chapter considers the intrinsic link between the assertion of post-Ottoman nationalities by Syrians in the mahjar (diaspora) and the arrival of practical nationalities in the eastern Mediterranean.
September 10, 2020: this month,the Arab American National Museum announced the recipients of their annual book awards and Between the Ottomans and the Ententeis among 2020’s honorees! The AANM’s program honors books written by and about Arab Americans, generating greater awareness of Arab American scholarship and writing.
“Fahrenthold’s book exemplifies the qualities sought by the Book Award criteria. A highly accessible yet deep scholarly study that is both an important addition as well as a timely exposition of a community’s historical interventions. It is a rich examination of migration communities, the volatility of displacement and movement, all within the backdrop of a history reaching its century mark. Fahrenthold is an excellent narrator of Arab migration history and a careful and innovative researcher. The book offers an expansive configuration of Arab Americans beyond the US. It is a novel take on early immigrants who are often framed as assimilationists. Instead here we see some of the ways they engaged with politics and the state, and were able to impact their homelands from the diaspora, a reversal of direction that is useful and necessary in diaspora studies. We found the text had broad teachability across Arab American studies, Middle East history, diaspora studies, and Modernity courses.”
July 9 2020: this week I’m posting threads on the Syrian and Lebanese mahjar over at the historical twitter account: @Tweetistorian. Created by Khodadad Rezakhan and Torsten Wollina in 2019, the Tweetistorian is a roving account that a new historian takes over every Monday. In order to keep track of this week’s threads on the mahjar, I’ll post each thread link below:
May 19 2020: this month I had an event with the UC Davis History Club on my book, Between the Ottomans and the Entente. We took the event online in a “hybrid” fashion: the talk went on Youtube, and then the History Club hosted a live conversation about the work via Zoom. It was a rich experience and the students had a lot of great questions!
The talk portion of the event is here (recorded in my sparsely decorated, yellow-lit home office, haha):
From the event flyer: How did a half million Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian immigrants across the Americas manage when the Ottoman Empire went to war? In this lecture based on my 2019 book, Between the Ottomans and the Entente, I argue that political activism by Arab immigrants in the diaspora changed the course of the war and its aftermath in the modern Middle East. In this story, the Ottoman Empire fell, and European Mandates rose up to take their place. What role did Syrians living abroad play? Find out here.
This lecture pairs with a UC Davis History Club event on May 7, 2020 at 5pm (PST). The History Club will host a live conversation via Zoom, open to all students, faculty, and staff at UC Davis. Are you free? Come join us! The event details (and a sample chapter!) appear on the UC Davis History Department’s socials here: https://history.ucdavis.edu/events
April 12 2020: this Spring I teamed up with co-editors Dawn Chatty and Annika Rabo to establish a brand new interdisciplinary book series on migration and refugees in the modern Middle East, and I hope you will consider us for your projects of share the series with colleagues, friends, and students. Here’s a shareable one-sheet about the series; if I can answer any questions please email!
New Book Series: Refugees and Migrants within the Middle East Series
Series Editors:Dawn Chatty (Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford); Stacy D. Fahrenthold (University of California Davis); Annika Rabo (University of Stockholm)
Description: This series explores new research on refugees and migrants within the Middle East and North Africa, drawing largely from Anthropology, History, Geography, Sociology, and Political Science. Refugees and Migrants within the Middle East seeks to present some of the most innovative work on displacement and mobility coming out of Middle Eastern studies. It targets work on the legacies of migration on the region, the agency and humanity of refugees, and their resistance to silencing. Both migrants and refugees navigate the fraught spaces between legal regimes, operating in liminal spaces as ‘guests’ or exiles in contexts of statelessness, and securitization of borders. This series aims to reclaim their agency through examinations of, among other topics, livelihoods; advocacy; cultural production; social movements; and resilience and resistance. Together, the titles in this series will offer vital understanding of the complex role that mobility plays in the Middle East and North Africa.
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.