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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.