On Forgotten Shores: Migration in Middle East Studies and the Middle East in Migration Studies


  • Andrew Arsan University of Cambridge
  • John Karam University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Akram Khater North Carolina State University




migration, diaspora, Middle Eastern studies, Middle East, modern history, fixity, enclosure


For all their apparent differences, the colonial and nationalist discourses of the twentieth century shared a vision of the world as an aggregate of discrete bundles of land and people, hermetic units sealed off from one another and defined by their particularities. Whether they spoke in terms of nations or empires, regions or civilizations, they worked to produce the reality they described – one of bounded territories and populations, each one neatly delineated and differentiated from the next. In so doing, they created truncated histories, narrowed-down narratives shorn of wider connections. In the following pages, we will address the implications of such schemes for Middle Eastern studies, and propose an alternative, diasporic vision of this field. A consideration of the population movements that have marked the modern history of the “Middle East” can open up new avenues and approaches for research, and put into question the implicit stress upon fixity and enclosure which still underpins scholarship on the region.