My writing focuses on migration from modern Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine to the Americas, and on the endurance of social ties between the mahjar and the Middle East. This work joins social historical methodologies with emerging theory in migration and borderlands studies, focusing on the transnational social worlds of everyday people. I post most of my preprints to my Humanities Commons page.
The concept of return is an intoxicating analytic for scholars. The idea that migrants return home creates opportunities to reclaim them from the hegemony of the bordered nation-state. Return also works as a rebuttal to the field’s preoccupations with exile and loss. Migrants return home all the time, as tourists or repatriates. Examining the interwar Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian diaspora, this chapter considers return migration along three planes: as a scholarly problem; as a diasporic mythology; and as a reality for thousands of emigrants who returned from abroad. Narrating a history of return migration, the chapter suggests new avenues for researchers into return migration, repatriation and deportation in Middle East studies. (full-text)
“Ladies Aid as Labor History: Working-Class Formation in the Mahjar,” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (2021)
Scholarship on welfare relief in the Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian diaspora currently situates it within a gendered politics of benevolence. This article reconsiders that frame and argues for a class-centered reassessment of “ladies aid” politics exploring the intersections of women’s relief with proletarian mutual aid strategies. The Syrian Ladies Aid Society provided food, shelter, education, and employment to Syrian workers. Drawing from club records and the Syrian American press, the article centers women within processes of working-class formation and concludes that labor history of the interwar mahjar requires focus on spaces of social reproduction beyond the factory floor. (full-text)
“Claimed by Turkey as Subjects: Ottoman Migrants, Foreign Passports, and Syrian Nationality in the Americas,” The Subjects of Ottoman International Law (Indiana University Press, 2020)
Examining the implications of wartime laws governing Syrian and Lebanese ethnicity in the United States on Middle Eastern nationality codes, this chapter argues a “Syrian American legal exceptionalism” divided Arabic-speaking immigrants from other Ottoman groups. US immigration laws set a precedent for governing “national origins” status claims by Arab Americans as France asserted itself as Syria and Lebanon. The chapter links emigrant claims to post-Ottoman nationalities in the Americas to the first nationality codes in French Mandate Syria and Lebanon. (full-text)
“Arab Labor Migration in the Americas 1880-1930,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History (2019)
Responding to 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. (This article is open access.)
“An Archaeology of Rare Books in Arab Atlantic History,” contribution to a State of the Field in Arab American Studies feaure for the Journal of American Ethnic History (2018)
Historians of Arab American history have long tangled with the problems of area studies. They argue that the division of social histories into Cold War-era cantons contained within national borders lends itself to the dual marginalization of peoples who do not fit neatly into the logic of methodological nationalism. Among those marginalized by this logic are migrants, diasporas, displaced persons, nomads, and refugees, communities that are increasingly at the center of historical debate but are shunted to the margins of archives built upon the ordering supremacy of the nation-state and its disciplinary apparatuses. (full-text)
“Former Ottomans in the ranks: pro-Entente military recruitment among Syrians in the Americas,” Journal of Global History (2016)
Employing press items, correspondence, and memoirs written by émigré recruiters during the First World War, this article reconstructs the transnational networks that facilitated the voluntary enlistment of an estimated 10,000 Syrian emigrants into the armies of the Entente. As Ottoman nationals, Syrian recruits used this as a practical means of obtaining American citizenship and shedding their legal ties to Istanbul. Recruiters folded their military service into broader goals for ‘Syrian’ and ‘Lebanese’ national liberation under the auspices of U.S. political support. (full-text)
“Sound Minds in Sound Bodies: Transnational Philanthropy & Patriotic Masculinity in al-Nadi al-Homsi and Syrian Brazil,” International Journal of Middle East Studies (2014)
Established in 1920, al-Nadi al-Homsi in São Paulo was a young men’s club devoted to Syrian patriotic activism and culture in the mahjar. Founded by a transnational network of intellectuals from Homs, Syria, the fraternity committed itself to what it saw as a crucial aspect of Syrian national independence under Amir Faysal: the development of a political middle class and a masculine patriotic culture. Part of a special issue on the politics of benevolence. (full-text)
“Transnational Modes and Media: the Syrian Press in the Mahjar and Emigrant Activism during World War I,” Mashriq & Mahjar (2013)
During World War I, the Syrian and Lebanese press in the American mahjar created new space for transnational political activism. In São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and New York City, diasporic journalists and political activists nurtured a new nationalist narrative and political culture in the press. Using materials from this press, the article concludes that the newspaper industry’s infrastructure enabled new patterns of political activism across the mahjar, but also channeled Syrian efforts into a complex alliance with France by the eve of the Mandate. (This article is open access.)
Reviews of Books
Cultural Exchange in a Time of Global Conflict: Colonials, Neutrals, and Belligerents during the First World War Sourcebook, King’s College London/Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA), November 2016.
- “Photograph of an Arab American military intelligence officer, 1919”
- “Letter by an Arab American soldier writing home from the front, 1918”
“The Syrian and Lebanese American Federation: a Case for Connection.” In Connections and Ruptures: America and the Middle East, edited by Robert Myers, 273-288. Beirut: American University of Beirut Press, 2011.
“Mother Syria and Syrian Motherhood: Imagining Mahjar Nationality between Ideal and Real.” Zaytoon Graduate Student Journal 1 (Spring 2009), 5-16.