HSTCMP 270 A: From the Mediterranean to America: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Migrations in Global Context

Spring 2020
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm / RAI 121
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
JEW ST 270 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

From the Mediterranean to America:

Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Migrations in Global Context

HSTCMP 270  / JEW ST 270

Spring 2020

Please note that while this course was originally scheduled for T/Th 10:30-12:20, we do not currently have any additional synchronous lectures scheduled. I will be updating you soon as to the prospect of future synchronous lectures. Thank you for your understanding.


Professor Devin Naar                                           Teaching Assistant: Tuna Başıbek

Email: denaar@uw.edu                                       Email: tunab@uw.edu

Office hours via Zoom: W 11 am-12 pm          M 10-11 am


1903 immigration restriction cartoon
 “No Asiatic, Negro, or any person born in the Turkish Empire,

 nor any lineal descendant of such person, shall be eligible for membership in the Club”

~ By-Laws of the Blue Ridge Club, Seattle, Washington, April 21, 1941.


“Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that

the immigrants were American history.”

~ Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted: The Epic story of the Great Migrations that made

the American people, 1952 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in history.


Course Description


Debates about immigration and refugees continue to permeate headlines and social media conversations. From those fleeing the Middle East for Europe to immigration and asylum as highly contested issues in the United States, people on the move across national boundaries and the impact and meaning of their experiences for societies across the globe remain of utmost significance, especially now as borders close due to the traumatic impact of the world’s most devastating pandemic in a century.

Following the interconnected paths of migration rooted in the eastern Mediterranean region in the 19th and 20th centuries, this course forges a conversation about two major world empires not often considered in dialogue with one another: the Ottoman Empire, which once included parts of eastern Europe and almost all of southeastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East; and the United States, consisting both of its continental formation and overseas possessions. The juxtaposition of the Ottoman Empire and the United States will compel us to address the centrality of religion (in the former) and race (in the latter) as organizing principles of society and how both shaped, and were shaped by, each other as well as emerging conceptions of nationality and citizenship. We will also examine how the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire provoked one of the greatest population movements in human history that propelled migration to the United States and also contributed to the crystallization of two entities we often take for granted and view as separate: “Europe” and “the Middle East.”  

Migrants from the eastern Mediterranean lands of the Ottoman Empire offer a dynamic test case through which to think critically about the formation and transformation of race, nation, religion, culture, and identity in a transcontinental and global context. Especially as the first naturalization act passed by U. S. Congress in 1790 declared that only “white persons” would be eligible to become American citizens, those individuals and communities from the part of the world where Europe ends and the Middle East begins came under intense security and sometimes were rejected as prospective members of the American nation on racial grounds. Their whiteness was often deemed liminal at best, not only in relation to appearance but also in accordance with “race science” and eugenics, both mainstream modes of thinking at the time. Through the prism of eastern Mediterranean migrants, we will reflect on W. E. B. Dubois’ famous statement: “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line.”

Not familiar to the broader American public in terms of their languages, cultures, customs, and appearances; stemming from an empire shaped by the tenets of Islam; and targeted for immigration restriction: Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ottoman Empire—reconfigured in ethnic or national terms as Sephardic Jews, Greeks, Armenians, Turks, and Arabs (often known then as “Syrians”)—entered a country mythologized as a place free of persecution where the streets were allegedly paved with gold. Through an exploration of a wide array of sources, including firsthand testimonies, retrospective memoirs, film, music, laws and government documents, newspaper articles, cartoons, and podcasts we will investigate the world these migrants left in Salonica, Istanbul, or Aleppo, and call into question deeply entrenched beliefs about the nature of the United States as a “nation of immigrants.” What challenges did they encounter en route to, and upon arrival in, the co-called new world, whether New York or Seattle? What price did they have to pay if they sought to become “really” American—or “white”? Why did some if not many abandon the “American dream” and return home? What are the echoes of their experiences today in American politics and culture? What links, if any, connect them to Europe or the Middle East? What are the implications of their historical experiences for thinking about the immigration debate today?


Course Goals and Objectives:



  • To become familiar with the intersections and divergences in the histories of the Ottoman Empire and the United States.
  • To understand the changing geographic, political, cultural, religious, and racial criteria that have drawn and redrawn the boundaries between “Europe” and the “Middle East” over the generations.
  • To recognize the ways in which religious categories—Muslims, Christians, and Jews--that organized the Ottoman Empire were transformed into ethnic or national categories in the 19th and 20th centuries due to local, regional, and global factors.
  • To understand the histories of the Ottoman Empire in both the Balkan and Middle Eastern contexts, its political structure and transformation in the 19th and 20th centuries, causes for its dissolution, and motives that stirred migration.
  • To think critically about the concept of the United States as a “nation of immigrants”
  • To think critically about concepts like “migrant,” “immigrant,” and “emigrant,” and to understand migration as a process of movement in multiple directions.
  • To interrogate the construction and meanings of racial categories in the United States, specifically “whiteness” in its contested legal, social, and cultural contexts, and especially the distinction between “scientific” and “visual” understandings of race.
  • To recognize the ways in which migrants from the eastern Mediterranean, at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle east, challenge(d) American racial definitions
  • To understand the origin and development of immigration restrictions and naturalization exclusions in the United States and the central role that race and racism play.
  • To understand the ways in which migrants from the Ottoman Empire shaped various aspects of American life, including in Seattle.


  • To analyze and interrogate a wide array of sources and identify their perspectives: all sources have “biases.”
  • To recognize that “history” is not a regurgitation of “facts,” but rather that historical narratives emerge through a dynamic process of human interpretation.
  • To empower students to recognize that they can become active “makers” of history through compelling and convincing writing.


  • To bring the past to life and recognize its relevance and power in the present.
  • To think critically about where you stand on the continuum of human history and world geography and to question your perception of that position especially as it relates to the history of migration.


Requirements and Grades:


  1. Weekly responses and replies in online Discussion Board: 25 %

A vital component of this class will be our discussion board, a space where we can express our ideas and engage with each other.  It is also the place where the instructor and TA can gauge your understanding and investment in our subject, and to follow the dialogue that develops among the members of the class. 


You will be responsible for crafting THREE weekly response posts throughout the course. The weeks that you will be responsible for will be determined in consultation with the TA. Please complete the week’s readings, lectures, and other course materials prior to crafting your responses. Each response should be 150-300 words. You must post your response by Wednesday at 5 pm PDT of the particular week you have been assigned.


In addition to the three weekly responses, you will also be responsible for at least THREE brief replies of 50-100 words to your classmates’ responses. You may choose to reply to any, and as many, of your classmates’ posts. Please feel free to develop threads and conversations. But your replies will only count toward the minimum of three when you post them during weeks other than the ones for which you are responsible for the longer responses. You must post your reply to your classmates response by Thursday at 5 pm PDT of the given week.


The goals here are to ensure that you are staying engaged with the course material throughout the duration. The timing of the responses and replies are set up so that you will be prepared for discussion in section on Fridays.


In crafting your postings, please be thoughtful and please make a point. Your point should demonstrate that you’ve done the readings and lecture, but please do not spend much time reiterating the material. Assume everyone has else has also done the readings, followed the lectures, podcasts, films, etc. Instead, reflect critically and thoughtfully on material and make an informed point; consider concluding with a question to generate additional responses from your classmates. See some netiquette tips here.


  1. Discussion Section Participation: 15 %

Friday discussion sections will provide the only regular synchronous aspect of the course and an opportunity to develop discussion and debate over course materials in a “live” setting. The expectations and goals for the discussion sections will be detailed further by the TA.


Please note that if you cannot participate in the discussion sections because you are in a different time zone, have internet connectivity issues, or due to any other reasons, please be in touch with both the instructor and the TA to determine appropriate ways for you to make up the participation points.


  1. Midterm: 30 % due uploaded onto Canvas on May 6 by 5 pm PDT.

The midterm exam will involve short answer identifications of key terms as well as a 750-1000 word essay in which you will draw upon historical evidence from the course to develop a convincing argument about a theme/question of contemporary relevance. You will receive the list of key terms and the essay prompt one week prior to the due date. For models for the style of essay from which to draw inspiration, take a look at “Made by History” column in the Washington Post and The Conversation.


  1. Final: 30 % due uploaded onto Canvas on June 8 by 5 pm PDT.

The final exam will follow the same format as the midterm and will involve short answer identifications of key terms as well as a 750-1000 word essay in which you will draw upon historical evidence from the course to develop a convincing argument about a theme/question of contemporary relevance. You will receive the list of key terms and the essay prompt one week prior to the due date. For models for the style of essay to draw inspiration, take a look at “Made by History” column in the Washington Post and The Conversation.


Late Assignments: Extensions will be granted on a case by case basis. If you need an extension please inform the instructor and/or TA prior to the deadline. Late papers will be penalized.


Course Materials:

All course materials will be accessible in digital format for free with the following exceptions:

  • Leon Sciaky, Farewell to Salonica, may be purchased as an ebook via Amazon for $9.49.
  • Elia Kazan, dir., America, America, may be rented or purchased via Amazon for $1.99.
  • “Who Do You Think You Are?” S7, E6, 5/1/2016, may be purchased and viewed on Youtube or Amazon for $2.99.



Class Schedule

The course syllabus is a living document; readings may be altered


  1. 3/30-4/5: Welcome, Orientation, Framing Questions



  1. 4/6-4/12: Muslims, Christians, Jews between Europe and the Middle East
  • Leon Sciaky, Farewell to Salonica (originally published 1946), may be purchased as an ebook via Amazon


  1. 4/13-4/19: “Unmixing of Peoples”: Reform, Revolution, War, and Genocide
  • Akram Khater, ed, Sources in the Study of the Modern Middle East,10-21 (Focus on 1839 and 1856 edicts) Khater - Ottoman Reforms.pdf
  • Young Turk Revolution (1908) Young Turk Proclamation 1908.pdf
  • Treaty of Lausanne on the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey (1923) Treaty of Lausanne.pdf
  • Reşat Kasaba, “Dreams of Empire, Dreams of Nation,” in Joseph Esherick, et al., Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (Oxford, 2006), 198-225. Kasaba - dreams.pdf


  1. 4/20-4/26: Leaving the Ottoman Empire


  1. 4/27-5/3: Visions of America
  • Hector St. John Crevecouer, Letters from an American Farmer (1782)
  • Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus” (1883)
  • Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “Unguarded Gates” (1895)
  • Horace Kallen, “Democracy Versus the Melting Pot,” The Nation (18-25 February 1915)
  • Theodore Roosevelt, “Hyphenated Americans” (1915)
  • Charlie Chaplin, The Immigrant (1917)
  • Mai Ngai, “‘A Nation of Immigrants’: The Cold War and Civil Rights Origins of Illegal Immigration,” Occasional Papers of the School of Social Science, April 2010, Paper No. 38.


  1. 5/4-5/10: Race, Whiteness, and American Citizenship
  • “Is the Turk a White Man?” The New York Times, September 30, 1909
  • Ian Haney López, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race, “White Lines,” pp. 1-14; Appendix A: “The Racial Prerequisite Cases,” Appendix B: “Excerpts from Prerequisite Cases”
  • Sarah Gualtieri, “Becoming "White": Race, Religion and the Foundations of Syrian/Lebanese Ethnicity in the United States,” Journal of American Ethnic History 20, no. (Summer 2001): 29-58.
  • Ottoman History Podcast: Syrian in Sioux Falls (2018).


  1. 5/11-5/17: “Race Science”, Immigration Restriction, and Deportation
  • “Who Do You Think You Are?” S7, E6, May 1, 2016, featuring Lea Michele youtube $2.99 or Amazon
  • Immigration and Naturalization Case File: Benuta Veissy, 1917-1920.
  • Selections from U. S. Congressional Hearings on Immigration, 1924
  • Mae Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924,” Journal of American History 86, no. 1 (1999): 67-92.
  • Ottoman History Podcast: Turkino (2019)


  1. 5/18-5/24: Building New Communities
  • Ottoman History Podcast: Ottoman New York (2017)
  • Bali, From Anatolia to the New World, selections
  • Isil Acehan, “‘Ottoman Street’ in America,” International Review of Social History 54 (2009): 19-44.
  • Isabel Kaprielian-Churchill, “Armenian Refugee Women: The Picture Brides, 1920-1930,” Journal of American Ethnic History 12, no. 3 (Spring 1993): 3-29.


  1. 5/25-5/31: Mediterranean Imprints on Seattle


  1. 6/1-6/7: (Im)migration Today
  • Readings TBA
Catalog Description:
Migration of "Middle Easterners" - Jews, Christians, and Muslims - from the Ottoman Empire to the United States in the twentieth century. How their experiences shaped, and were shaped by, the development of racial categories, definitions of citizenship and national belonging, and broader political, religious, and cultural dynamics linking the Mediterranean world to the Americas. Offered: jointly with JEW ST 270.
GE Requirements Met:
Diversity (DIV)
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
May 23, 2024 - 4:18 am