Narrating Migration: A Cross-Disciplinary Roundtable

Episode 436

hosted by Chris Gratien
Audience questions by Joshua Donovan, Nihal Kayali, Nova Robinson, and Ben Smith

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In this roundtable entitled "Narrating Migration: Emerging Methods and Cross-Disciplinary Directions," held at the 2019 Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in New Orleans, two historians--Reem Bailony and Andrew Arsan--and two sociologists--Rawan Arar and Neda Maghbouleh discuss their experiences and approaches to studying migration. Throughout this conversation with our four authors about their own research, we speak to the following questions: What are the promises and dangers of narrative in migration studies? What role do language and affect play in writing migrant stories? How should we write them? How do different disciplines approach migration? What challenges and possibilities are presented by the source base? How do various sources (e.g., state, personal, oral) intersect or diverge? What are overlooked areas (e.g., spatial, temporal, political, social) with regard to migration and the modern Middle East? How do experiences of MENA migration and diaspora contribute to migration studies broadly speaking? How does this work impact historiographies of the Global North, South-South relations, and other places where MENA migrants have gone? What promise might the study of MENA migration hold for decolonial scholarship?

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Contributor Bios

Rawan Arar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Law, Societies, and Justice at the University of Washington. She completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California San Diego and postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Rawan studies refugee displacement, international migration, and rights.
Andrew Arsan teaches modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa (2014), and of Lebanon: A Country in Fragments (2018, paperback edition forthcoming 2020), a study of everyday life and politics in contemporary Lebanon.
Reem Bailony is Assistant Professor of History at Agnes Scott College. She is working on a book about the transnational context of the 1925 Syrian Revolt.
Neda Maghbouleh (@nedasoc) is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, with graduate appointment to the St. George campus. She is author of The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race (Stanford University Press, 2017) and Principal Investigator of a longitudinal study (2018-2023) of Syrian refugee resettlement in Toronto titled RISE Team: Refugee Integration, Stress, & Equity.
Chris Gratien is Assistant Professor of History at University of Virginia, where he teaches classes on global environmental history and the Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region of the former Ottoman Empire from the 1850s until the 1950s.


Episode No. 436
Release Date: 25 November 2019
Recording Location: 2019 MESA Annual Meeting, New Orleans
Music: Ketsa - Life Illusion; Tanious Hamlawe - Tabouly
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Reading lists courtesy of roundtable participants


Each of our roundtable participants has provided a short bibliography for further reading relevant to the discussion, including their own selected works

Rawan Arar | Sociology

Arar, Rawan. 2017. “The New Grand Compromise: How Syrian refugees Changed the Stakes in the Global Refugee Assistance regime. Middle East Law Governance 9(3):298–312.

Fee, Molly and Rawan Arar. 2019. “What Happens When the United States Stops Taking in Refugees?” Contexts 18 (2): 18-23.

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena. 2016. “Repressentations of Displacement from the Middle East and North Africa.” Public Culture 28(3).

FitzGerald, David S. 2019. Refuge Beyond Reach: How Rich Democracies Repel Asylum Seekers: Oxford University Press.

FitzGerald, David S. and Rawan Arar. 2018. “The Sociology of Refugee Migration.” Annual Review of Sociology 44: 387-406.

Gatrell, Peter. 2013. The Making of the Modern Refugee. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press.

Haddad, Emma. 2008. The Refugee in International Society: Between Sovereigns: Cambridge University Press.

Polletta et al. 2011. “The Sociology of Storytelling.” Annual Review of Sociology 37:109-30.

Ticktin, Miriam. 2014. “Transnational Humanitarianism.” Annual Review of Anthropology 43:273-89.

Turner, Lewis. 2019. “‘#Refugees can be entrepreneurs too!’ Humanitarianism, race, and the marketing of Syrian refugees.” Review of International Studies. DOI:

Zolberg, Aristide R., Astri Suhrke, and Sergio Aguayo. 1989. Escape From Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World: Oxford University Press.

Andrew Arsan | History

Andrew Arsan, Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa (London and New York: Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2014) 

Reem Bailony, ‘From Mandate Borders to the Diaspora: Rashaya’s Transnational Suffering and the Making of Lebanon in 1925’, Arab Studies Journal 26, 2 (2018)

John-Paul Ghobrial, ‘The Secret Life of Elias of Babylon and the Uses of Global Microhistory’, Past & Present 222, 1 (2014), pp.51-93

Sarah Gualtieri, Arab Routes: Pathways to Syrian California (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2019)

David Gutman, The Politics of Armenian Migration to North America, 1885-1915: Sojourners, Smugglers, and Dubious Citizens (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019) 

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

‘Legacies of Labor: Lebanese Factory Workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1890-1950’  

Khalil Sakakini, The Diaries of Khalil Sakakini, vol.1 (Ramallah: Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, 2003) [in Arabic]

Randa Tawil, ‘A Waking Dream: Syrian Migrants’ Journeys to the Americas’,

Francesca Trivellato, ‘Is There A Future for Italian History in the Age of Global History’, California Italian Studies 2, 1 (2011): 

Reem Bailony | History

Adal, Raja. "Constructing Transnational Islam: The East–West network of Shakib Arslan," in Stephane A. Dudoignon, Komatsu Hisao and Kosugi Yasushi (eds), Intellectuals in the Modern Islamic World  (London: Routledge, 2006),  pp. 194-228. 

Bailony, Reem. "From Mandate Borders to the Diaspora: Rashaya’s Transnational Suffering and the Making of Lebanon in 1925." Arab Studies Journal 26, no. 2 (2018): 44-73.

Cleveland, William L. Islam Against the West: Shakib Arslan and the Campaign for Islamic Nationalism (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011).

Featherstone, David. Solidarity: Hidden Histories and Geographies of Internationalism (London: Ced Books, 2012). 

Hamdan, Ali. "Thoughts from the Provinces." International Journal of Middle East Studies 49, no. 2 (2017): 331-334.

Källgren, Karolina Enquist. "Exile and Migration as a Social and Historical Context in Europe." Cultural Borders and European Integration (2017): 39.

Nordbruch, Götz and Umar Ryad (eds). Transnational Islam in Interwar Europe: Muslim Activists and Thinkers (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2014).

Said, Edward W. Reflections on Exile and Other Literary and Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000). 

Neda Maghbouleh | Sociology

Abu-Lughod, Lila. 2013. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Harvard University Press.

Cainkar, Louise. 2009. Homeland Insecurity: The Arab American and Muslim American Experience After 9/11. Russell Sage Foundation.

Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen. 2018. No Path Home: Humanitarian Camps and the Grief of Displacement. Cornell University Press.

FitzGerald, David and David Martin-Cook. 2014. Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas. Harvard University Press.

Gualtieri, Sarah. 2009. Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora. UC Press, 2009.

Labman, Shauna. 2019. Crossing Law's Border: Canada's Refugee Resettlement Program. UBC Press.

Lipsitz, George. 2018 (1998). The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit From Identity Politics. Temple University Press.

Maghbouleh, Neda. 2020. "From white to what? MENA and Iranian American Non-White Reflected Race," Ethnic and Racial Studies, 43(4).

Maghbouleh, Neda, Laila Omar, Melissa Milkie, and Ito Peng. 2019. "Listening in Arabic: Feminist Research with Syrian Refugee Mothers," Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 18(2): 482-507.

Sharif, Solmaz. 2016. Look. Graywolf Press.


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