Ottoman Armenian Racialization in an American Space (1908–1914)
At the dawn of the twentieth century, droves of former Ottoman subjects including Armenians and Syrians began to set foot in the United States searching for better opportunities. Many faced American white supremacist xenophobia and fell victim to racial discrimination. Various Ottoman diasporic communities responded to this harassment by expressing an increasing investment in the question of American whiteness and vigorously yearning to move beyond its fringes. Their voices, however, remain considerably muted; their stories are largely excluded from most American immigration narratives and conventional area-studies histories. This study endeavors to help reverse this scholarly tradition by examining the mindset of Ottoman Armenian expatriates as articulated in the editorials of Asbarēz, an Armenian-language weekly published in Fresno, California starting in 1908. As this micro-study shows, the migrants used the European racialist knowledge imported from the Ottoman empire to lay claim to whiteness and achieve integration in the US but also to affect change at home.
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