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:
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.”
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.
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).
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.