Resources for Migration and Refugee Histories of the Middle East

April 29, 2018
By: Stacy Fahrenthold 
Syrian returnees await departure from the port at New York City after processing with French passport documents in 1920.

Resources for Migration and Refugee Histories of the Middle East

I have developed this list of readings from the syllabus from my course, Migrants and Refugees in the Modern Middle East. The course meets weekly and is arranged around a series of core concepts required for the “rethinking” of migration as a set of systems as opposed to a linear phenomenon. This approach improves humanistic research into migration by opening opportunities for analyzing migrant agency and decision-making, but it can also inform better immigration policy. The list is not exhaustive, but introduces the reader into core themes in migration histories of the Middle East. 

Historical Overviews of Middle Eastern Mobility, Migration Systems, and Refugees

Resat Kasaba, A Moveable Empire: Ottoman Nomads, Migrants, and Refugees (Seattle University Press, 2009).

Dawn Chatty, Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Liat Kozma, Avner Wishnitzer, and Cyrus Schayegh, eds., A Global Middle East: Mobility, Materiality and Culture in the Modern Age, 1880–1940 (I.B. Tauris, 2014).

Partition, Border Construction, and Citizenship as a Category of Exclusion

Laura Robson, States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (University of California, 2017).

Shira Robinson, Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the Birth of Israel’s Liberal Settler State (Stanford University Press, 2013).

Orit Bashkin, New Babylonians: a History of Jews in Modern Iraq (Stanford University Press, 2012).

Lauren Banko, The Invention of Palestinian Citizenship, 1918-1947 (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).

Bruce Clark, Twice a Stranger: the Mass Expulsions that Forced Modern Greece and Turkey (Harvard University Press, 2009) 

Documentary Regimes and Mobility Control

Rania Maktabi, “The Lebanese Census of 1932 Revisited: Who Are the Lebanese?” British Journal of Middle East Studies 26, no. 2 (1999), 219-241.

David Gutman, “Travel Documents, Mobility Control, and the Ottoman State in an Age of Global Migration, 1880-1915,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 3, no. 2 (2016), 347-368.

Middle Eastern Migration to America

Sarah Gualtieri, Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora (University of California Press, 2009).

Sally Howell, Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Hani Bawardi, The Making of Arab Americans: From Syrian Nationalism to U.S. Citizenship (University of Texas Press, 2014).

Akram Fouad Khater, Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 1870-1920 (University of California Press, 2001).

The Politics of Humanitarianism in the Middle East

Keith David Watenpaugh, Bread from Stones: the Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (University of California Press, 2015).

Important Documents Relating to Stateless Persons and Refugees

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 1951 United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, available at:

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 1954 United Nations Convention Relating the Status of Stateless Persons, available at:

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), The Situation of Stateless Persons in the Middle East and North Africa, October 2010, available at:

Human Rights Watch, Prisoners of the Past: Kuwaiti Bidun and the Burden of Statelessness, 2011, available at:

Human Rights Watch, Stateless Again: Palestinian-Origin Jordanians Deprived of Their Nationality, 2010, available at:

Scholarly Journals Devoted to Migration and Refugees

Mashriq and Mahjar: Migration of Middle East and North African Migration Studies, open access available at:

Journal of Refugee Studies, available at:

International Migration Review, available at:

Stacy Fahrenthold 

Stacy Fahrenthold is a historian of modern Syria and Lebanon. She is an assistant professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus. She received her Ph.D. in History from Northeastern University in 2014.

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