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.
8 May 2018: a new brief piece of mine appears in the Spring 2018 issue of the Journal of American Ethnic Studies. “An Archaeology of Rare Books” is part of a JAEH Forum on Arab American history and features work by Charlotte Karem Albrecht, John Tofik Karam, and Sarah Gualtieri (who edited this special forum feature).
From the piece:
Three sets of challenges present themselves to the historian: the marginalization of migrants in archives frozen in the area studies approach; the hegemony of single-site research as the funding model in Middle East studies; and the ad hoc unavailability of state archives in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and elsewhere. In a moment when we need migrant histories more than ever, the obstacles are multiplying. These same troubles, however, create a radical opportunity for social histories of Middle Eastern migration that build from the perspectives— and the documents—that migrants carry with them as they travel, rather than from the confining lens of the state and its archives. If social history is to pursue Middle Eastern migrants into spaces beyond the state and its regulatory goals, the historian must build up from a different type of archive.
Syrian returnees await departure from the port at New York City after processing with French passport documents in 1920.
23 April 2018: Next month I will visit the Middle East Center at the University of Washington in Seattle to talk about the French Mandate’s use of passports to claim Syrian and Lebanese migrants living abroad for political purposes after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The talk argues that passports represented a forced fixing of nationalities on an emigre population as part of a French bid for regional legitimacy, and it illustrates links between empire-building, minoritization, and migrant repatriation. If you are in the Seattle area on May 29 and would like to join, event information can be viewed at this link. Looking forward to it!