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New Publication: “An Archaeology of Rare Books in Arab Atlantic History” in Journal of American Ethnic Studies

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.

The Arab American Studies Forum can be viewed in its entirety on JAEH’s jstor page, but pre-prints of my own contribution can also be viewed here in full text.

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Public Talk on Passports and Post-Ottoman Nationalities, May 29 at the University of Washington

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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!

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Book review: Jeffrey Grey’s The War with the Ottoman Empire

2 March 2018: my review of Jeffrey Grey’s 2016 book, The War with the Ottoman Empire, appears in the current issue of the International Journal of Turkish StudiesThe book is part of an Oxford series on the Great War in Australian history (full text available here). From the review:

Proceeding chronologically, the book includes the expected examinations of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles campaigns but also advances new comprehensive and archivally sound analyses on the defense of the Sinai, the Palestine stalemate, the conquest of Jerusalem, and the defeat of the Ottomans in Palestine and Syria. Grey pushes back on the historiography of flashpoints and snapshots that tend to dominate European studies of the Ottoman theater, focusing not merely on major military campaigns but also on the quotidian organizational struggles and tensions as they developed within the Australian, New Zealander, and British leadership. He reveals the Australian encampments as sites of contest among commanders, where provisioning was a struggle and where indiscipline posed a persistent concern. Disaggregating the military and diplomatic chain of command, the author compassionately contextualizes disputes between rival commanders and demonstrates how quarrels over means, goals, and especially provisions impacted Allied plans in the eastern Mediterranean. London’s anxiety about the importance of the Ottoman theater in relation to the European Western Front produced intense disagreements between British civilian policymakers and military commanders, as well as between British strategists and their Australian counterparts. Strategic and political infighting “affected resourcing and (the) political direction of the fighting” in the Sinai, Gaza, and the Levantine campaigns in general.

The volume can be found on the Oxford University Press website. It will be useful for historians of the Great War (and not only Ottomanists) seeking a rich military history that branches beyond the hegemony of the European Western Front.

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Brief piece online: The Power of Small Stories: a Syrian Abroad in World War I

22 January 2018: I’ve posted a reflection on microhistory in the Syrian mahjar over at Medium. Based on the life of one Syrian migrant living in Boston, the piece considers how the pursuit of individual stories can challenge the expectations of nationalist histories and area studies alike.

From the post:

“[Khayrallah’s] story defies the expectations of nationalist historiographies which would scatter his life across several contexts, depriving it of its coherence and explanatory power. The collapsing of contexts — the Syrian with the American — was precisely his political goal. Historians of migration must build analytical units which remain true to the social geographies of such individuals. In such a story, migrants like Jurj Khayrallah appear not as liminal agents at the margins of many histories at once; they are central actors in a transnational history which microhistorical methods render accessible.”

The entire piece can be accessed here:

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Found: George Matook (Massachusetts State Library Archives)

12 December 2017: a friend recently discovered an image of Syrian American U.S. Army translator George Abraham Matook, a figure who plays a major role in chapter 3 of my forthcoming book, Between the Ottomans and the Entente.

George A Matook, 1918. Source:

Born in Boston, Massachusetts to Syrian parents, George Matook enlisted in 1918 and was sent to France to serve as an interpreter between a contingent of Arabic-speaking troops and the larger 101st Engineer Corps. I have written about Matook in a couple places: I  introduced one of his letters home from the Western Front, preserved in a digital sourcebook, Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict (link) and in the collections of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI. Matook (and that letter) also appears in my 2016 article in the Journal of Global History (full text).

It is nice to put a face with the name and to include this photograph in the book, out next year with Oxford University Press.

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Book Review: Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino USA in the Journal of American Ethnic History

5 August 2017- my review of Maria Narbona, Paulo Pinto, and John Karam’s edited collection, Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino USA appears in the current issue of the Journal of American Ethnic History. (full text available here). From the review:

Despite five centuries of Muslim settlement in the Americas, Islam is often depicted as a foreigner’s faith. Challenging the notion that the Latin American and Islamic worlds are discrete and separate cultural spaces, Crescent over Another Horizon tracks Islam’s historical indigenization in Latin America by migrants com- ing from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia and the contemporary conversion of Latino/as, Brazilians, and African Americans. Editors Narbona, Pinto, and Karam employ Islam as an analytic that has the power to undo the Cold War–era area studies’ assumption that cultures map neatly into territories. They fashion a fresh scholarly approach for examining the “Latino American architecture of a wider Islamic world,” a world they define by a shared historical experience of colonialism, by the preoccupation of Latin American societies with Islam as the faith of the Other, and by the tension that exists between diverse Muslim communities and their desires for pan-Islamic unity: a Latin American ummah.

The volume can be found on University of Texas Press’s webpage. It’s excellent work and will be invaluable to anyone working in migration history, ethnic studies, or Islam in American contexts.

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Interview on CSPAN’s American History Television

17 June 2017- my interview with CSPAN3’s American History TV ran today on Syrian migrants in the United States during the First World War. The interview took place at the Organization of American Historians annual meeting in April in a series of tapings to commemorate the centenary of America’s entry into the war.


The full interview can be accessed at this link:


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New position at Stanislaus State

14 June 2017- I’m pleased to announce that this Fall semester, I will begin a new tenure-track appointment in History at California State University, Stanislaus! In addition to teaching in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and migration history I will develop a public history project on modern Assyrian history and Assyrian American studies. The project is funded by the Francis Sarguis Modern Assyrian Heritage fund and I will work with Stan State undergraduates and graduate students to collect, record, preserve, and present local Assyrian American histories focusing on California’s Central Valley. The project will contribute to a growing archive in modern Assyrian heritage curated by Stan State’s Special Collections department. I’m looking forward to getting to know this community and can’t wait to get started!

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New piece published: “Teaching Migrant and Refugee Histories in the Shadow of Trump” in IEHS Online

27 March 2017: a new brief piece of mine on teaching migration and refugee history appears on IEHS ONLINE, the website of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. My Spring 2017 course, Migrants and Refugees in the Middle East, meets Tuesday evenings, and it seems like each week I am revising my course materials to speak to rapidly  changing public attitudes and policies towards migrants from the region.

From the piece:

Migrants do not “pour in” to places. Refugees do not arrive in “flows” or “waves.” And migrants are not vectors for a terrorist contagion, their bodies carrying within them the “seeds” of radicalism. Border walls do not stymie migration because walls are not levies and migrants are not water. Migration does not work that way. Now more than ever, it is critical that we talk about migration systems.

The rest can be read here:

This blog post accompanies another piece (which appears HERE) to offer new readings and learning modules on how to “rethink” migration history through systems-based historiography.

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April 4 event on Fresno State campus: Symposium for Syrian Refugees


On April 4, Fresno State will host speakers from US CIS, a variety of organizations devoted to resettlement of Syrian refugees, as well as Dr. Keith Watenpaugh, historian of refugees and human rights at UC-Davis. The all-day event features expertise on all sides of the Syrian refugee issue and will hopefully continue campus-community conversations about the dozens of Syrian refugee families resettled in California’s Central Valley. Fresno is a city with a deep and rich history of refugee relocation. Students will learn more about the Syrian conflict, the necessity for refugee resettlement, and new challenges faced by professionals working in this field.

The complete agenda can be viewed at this link: 4 April Symposium for Syrian Refugees

All events are free and open to the public. Please email me at sfahrenthold @ to coordinate class visits or press interviews. Ahlan wa Sahlan and Thanks!