The Argentine Mahjar

Episode 352

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In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, over 100,000 Arabic-speaking immigrants settled in Argentina, making it the second most popular destination after the United States for participants in the mahjar, or diaspora of Arabic speaking migrants prior to World War I. In this episode, Lily Pearl Balloffet discusses transnational connections between Latin America and the Eastern Mediterranean. In particular, we focus on how the mahjar influenced the Middle East in the twentieth century and how Arabic-speaking Argentines forged community ties within Argentina. Balloffet describes the role of women’s philanthropy networks in creating interprovincial, rural-urban, and transnational connections. At the end of the podcast, she shares how she has been able to employ database work and digital mapping tools to understand more holistically the geographical breadth and social characteristics of the Argentine mahjar.

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Contributor Bios

Lily Pearl Balloffet is an Assistant Professor of History at Western Carolina University. Her research is on South-South connections between Latin America and the Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean. She is also one of the editors of Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East & North African Migration Studies.
Ella Fratantuono is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research focuses on migration and settlement policies in the late Ottoman Empire.


Episode No. 352
Release Date: 16 March 2018
Recording Location: Charlotte, NC
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: Fairuz - Tango Argentino en árabe "Caminito"
Special thanks to Kara Günes for permission to use the composition "Istanbul".
Images and bibliography courtesy of Lily Pearl Balloffet


Pictured here are traveling Arab-Argentine artists, journalists, and comedians who toured the Americas with increasing frequency from the late 1920s onward. These mobile individuals showed documentary films, performed theatrical routines, and raised money for Argentine periodicals such as the prominent Assalam newspaper, which ran from 1902-1973.  In this image, they appear in the Santiago, Chile-based periodical La Reforma's social pages after a tour of the capital and its surrounding areas. Source: La Reforma (Santiago de Chile: June 16, 1938, p.13).

Select Bibliography

Balloffet, Lily Pearl. “From the Pampas to the Mashriq: Arab-Argentine Philanthropy Networks.” Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies 4, no.1 (2017): 4-28.

_____. “Syrian Refugees in Latin America: Diaspora Communities as Interlocutors.” Latin American Studies Association Forum 47, no.1 (2016): 9-14.

Bestene, Jorge. “La inmigración sirio-libanesa en la Argentina: Una aproximación,” Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos 12, no.9 (1998):239-267.

Bryce, Benjamin. “Paternal Communities: Social Welfare and Immigration to Argentina, 1880-1930,” Journal of Social History 49, no.1 (2015):213-236.

Guy, Donna. Women Build the Welfare State: Performing Charity, and Creating Rights in Argentina, 1880-1955. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

Hyland, Steven. More Argentine Than You: Arabic-Speaking Immigrants in Argentina. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2017.

_____. “Arabic-speaking Immigrants Before the Courts in Tucumán, Argentina, 1910-1940,” Journal of Women’s History, 28, no.4(2016):41-64.

Jozami, Gladys. “Identidad religiosa e  integración cultural en cristianos sirios y libaneses en Argentina, 1890-1990,” Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos 9, no.26 (1994):118-130.

Karam, John Tofik. “The Lebanese Diaspora at the Tri-Border and the Redrawing of American Geopolitics, 1950-1992,” Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East & North African Migration Studies 1, no.1 (2013):55-84.

McGee Deutsch, Sandra. Crossing Borders, Claiming a Nation: A History of Argentine Jewish Women, 1880-1955. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.


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