Latin American Studies The Arab Diaspora in Brazil
by
Silvia C. Ferreira
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0224

Introduction

The Arab diaspora in Brazil refers to the movement of people from countries with Arab populations to Brazil, a process that began in the last decades of the 19th century and reached its height during the years leading up to WWI and the subsequent dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. This diaspora was part of a larger movement of people from the Greater Syria area to the Americas, with the United States, Argentina, and Brazil serving as the first, second, and third most popular destinations for these populations. Due to scant record-keeping and a lack of uniformity in travel documents and demographic classifications, it is difficult to find reliable estimates of the number of Arab people who made their way to Brazil. Today, many Brazilians trace their roots to Arab countries. In addition to árabes (Arabs), other common terms for this population that researchers and students should be aware of include sírios (Syrians), sírio-libaneses (Syro-Lebanese), and turcos (Turks), the latter being an older term that was often used pejoratively and has thus fallen out of favor in more current sources. In Arabic, the South American countries to which Arabs migrated are often collectively referred to in the scholarship as al-mahjar al-janūbī (the Southern Mahjar, with “mahjar” meaning place of emigration). Scholarship on this topic has traditionally been divided along linguistic lines, with researchers relying on either Portuguese-language or Arabic-language primary sources. In fact, early primary sources exist in both languages, and more recent scholarship has attempted to bridge this divide by offering translingual and transnational perspectives on the Arab diaspora in Brazil.

General Overviews

For a general overview of the Arab diaspora in Brazil, the reader will find it necessary to combine various sources on its specific aspects; a single comprehensive source that treats this diaspora more generally does not yet exist. Readers would benefit from beginning with Knowlton 1992, a classic historical essay on the topic, which, while dated, provides a useful point of entry that can be given further nuance by more contemporary sources like Pinto 2010 and Truzzi 2018. Lesser 1992 is also considered a canonical historical source and will provide a useful foundation for understanding later scholarly interventions. For an accessible overview on ethnic minorities in Brazil, including Arabs, Lesser 1999 is useful. Those wanting a more contemporary exploration of Syrian-Lebanese ethnicity in Brazil should consult Karam 2007. Amar 2014 will be very useful to those looking for an interdisciplinary approach to this diaspora, while Jardim and de Oliveira 2007 provides essays on a variety of topics related to Arabs all over the Americas.

  • Amar, Paul, ed. The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014.

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    This edited volume includes contributions from scholars across disciplines. Using a South-South framework, the essays in this volume offer transregional perspectives on the politics, history, and cultural production of the Arab diaspora in Brazil and on other Middle East–Brazil connections.

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  • Jardim, Denise Fagundes, and Marco Aurélio Machado de Oliveira, eds. Os Árabes e suas Américas. Campo Grande, Brazil: Editora Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, 2007.

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    This edited volume features two English, one Spanish, and eight Portuguese essays covering a wide array of topics related to the Arab presence all over the Americas. The topics range from the politics of food, to marriage patterns, to return migration, to name but a few. Since the majority of the essays are specific to Brazil, this volume will be useful to those interested in the Arab diaspora in Brazil. (Title translation: The Arabs and their Americas.)

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  • Karam, John Tofik. Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007.

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    This book uses extensive original fieldwork to provide a contemporary anthropological perspective on constructions of Syrian-Lebanese and Arab identities in Brazil. It is especially notable for its attention to the influences of globalization and neoliberalism on ethnic projects in modern Brazil. Anyone interested in the Arab diaspora in Brazil should read this book.

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  • Knowlton, Clark S. “The Social and Spatial Mobility of the Syrian and Lebanese Community in São Paulo, Brazil.” In The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration. Edited by Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi, 285–312. London: Centre for Lebanese Studies, 1992.

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    This essay is based on research conducted in 1950 and 1951. Many of its assumptions are dated. Because it was one of the first sources of its kind, however, it is still cited frequently. It provides an overview of early scholarly understandings of the demographics and patterns of settlement and social mobility of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants in São Paulo. It should be read in conjunction with more updated sources like Truzzi 2018.

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  • Lesser, Jeff. “From Pedlars to Proprietors: Lebanese, Syrian and Jewish Immigrants in Brazil.” In The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration. Edited by Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi, 393–410. London: Centre for Lebanese Studies, 1992.

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    This essay articulates the now-prevalent narrative of the “peddler-to-proprietor” pattern of upward social mobility and successful economic integration, which argues that many Syrian-Lebanese immigrants were able to begin as peddlers and eventually become successful proprietors in Brazil. It also discusses the historical contexts in which Syrian, Lebanese, and Jewish immigrants became the targets of intensified prejudice in Brazil.

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  • Lesser, Jeffrey. Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1999.

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    This source contextualizes the Arab diaspora in Brazil within the larger history of immigration to the country throughout the 20th century, with a particular focus on how different immigrant groups navigated changing notions of national identity. While it encompasses ethnic minorities in Brazil from a variety of places, the reader will find Arab populations well documented here, especially since the author has published elsewhere specifically on Middle Eastern populations in Brazil.

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  • Pinto, Paulo Gabriel Hilu da Rocha. Árabes no Rio de Janeiro: Uma identidade plural. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Cidade Viva, 2010.

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    This book provides an anthropological account of the Arab presence in Rio de Janeiro. It is a visually appealing source that includes relevant historical photographs and documents, as well as accessible explanations of topics. It is also very carefully researched and richly detailed, which makes it an excellent source for researchers and students alike. (Title translation: Arabs in Rio de Janeiro: A plural identity.)

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  • Truzzi, Oswaldo. Syrian and Lebanese Patrícios in São Paulo: From the Levant to Brazil. Translated by Ramon Stern. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.5406/j.ctv513cnpSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This translation of Oswaldo Truzzi’s 1997 Patrícios: Sírios e libaneses em São Paulo brings a now-canonical source on the Arab diaspora in Brazil to English-speaking audiences for the first time. It provides an accessible historical overview of Arab migration to Brazil, with a heavy focus on São Paulo. It is a good point of departure for researchers and students alike.

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Bibliographies

Two other existing bibliographies can complement this one in fruitful ways. Nonspecialists and more general readers will find a good starting point in Khatlab 2005. Scholars and students interested in the wider pan-American context of the Arab diaspora in Brazil will find Boos 2017 useful.

  • Boos, Tobias. “The Arab Diaspora in Latin America.” Oxford Bibliographies in Latin American Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

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    Boos’s separate entry in the Oxford Bibliographies deals with the Arab diaspora to all of Latin America, including specific sections on “Argentina,” “Brazil,” “Chile,” “Mexico,” “Central America and the Caribbean Area,” and “South America: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.” The Brazil section is a helpful point of departure, with other sections providing useful context for understanding the Arab diaspora in Brazil as part of a pan-American phenomenon.

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  • Khatlab, Roberto. Lebanese Migrants in Brazil: An Annotated Bibliography. Zuq Musbih, Lebanon: Lebanese Emigration Research Center, 2005.

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    This bibliography is a particularly useful starting point for those new to the study of the Arab diaspora in Brazil. Its inclusion of various genres, media, and popular sources make it an accessible source for specialists and nonspecialists alike. Teachers will find many classroom-friendly materials listed here. It also lists many archives, research centers, and relevant social and cultural organizations in both the Middle East and Brazil.

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Primary Historical Sources

Primary historical sources related to the Arab diaspora in Brazil are available in both Arabic and Portuguese. These sources are scattered throughout libraries, archives, cultural institutions, and social clubs in the United States, Brazil, and the Middle East, which can make some of them difficult to access. Some are rare and have only a few circulating copies, while others do not circulate at all. Nevertheless, together, these primary historical sources offer unmediated access to dimensions of the history of the Arab diaspora in Brazil that would otherwise be lost. Researchers can consult the Organizations section for some leads on accessing other relevant primary historical documents online through digitized archives, which will hopefully become more common.

Newspapers and Magazines

Arab communities in Brazil have a rich history of publishing newspapers and magazines in both Arabic and Portuguese, a history that extends back to the initial stages of this migration and lives on in the early 21st century. While the Nahḍa (Arab Renaissance) is commonly associated with the proliferation of journalistic infrastructure and the press in cities like Beirut and Cairo, the prolific journalistic activities of Arabs in Brazil show that this history extends to South American cities like São Paulo as well. The sheer number of newspapers and magazines published by Arab communities in Brazil makes it impossible to list them all here. Instead, this section includes a curated list of four early examples of the Arabic press in Brazil, which showcase its variety and are of particular historical importance. It includes elite publications focused on literature and art, such as al-ʿUṣba (The League), as well as more popular publications that covered a wider range of issues, such as Majallat al-Sharq (Magazine of the East). It also includes pioneering examples of publications founded by women, such as al-Karma (The Vine) and al-Marāḥil (The Stages). Many of these Arabic-language publications suffered interruptions in the late 1930s and early 1940s due to foreign-language bans imposed during the rule of Getúlio Vargas. Some Arabic-language publications also published Portuguese versions or included Portuguese-language supplements. For a more complete list of newspapers and magazines published by Arab communities in Brazil, see Khatlab 2005 (cited in Bibliographies). Khatlab’s list is organized by city and also includes many contemporary publications.

Histories

The early to mid-20th century saw a proliferation of “histories” published by and about Arabs in Brazil. Yet sources like Bastani 1945 and Kurban 1933 should be read not for the veracity of their historical arguments, but as informative reflections of the tropes, narratives, and rhetorical moves through which Arab writers sought to insert themselves into changing narratives of Brazilian nationhood. Ghanem 1936 is more of a travelogue that also engages in historical musings and explanations of cultural differences. Bastani 1949 presents itself as a fictionalized account, yet also presents various historical theses. Indeed, the prose genre being broadly classified as “histories” here tends to actually be a mix of personal memoir, historical theses, travel writing, philosophy, and fictional musings. The sometimes-long explanations of Arab peoples and Arabic customs and cultures included in many of these sources also suggest they may have targeted a primarily Brazilian audience.

  • Bastani, Tanus Jorge. O Líbano e os Libanêses no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: n.p., 1945.

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    This book offers many historical theses on Lebanon and Lebanese people in Brazil. Rather than accepting this source as an accurate historical account, the reader will find interesting how the author uses different strategies to attempt to integrate immigrants into discourses of civilization and nationhood. The book also emphasizes Syrian and Lebanese immigrants’ contributions to Brazil’s economy. (Title translation: Lebanon and the Lebanese in Brazil.)

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  • Bastani, Tanus Jorge. Memórias de um mascate. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: F. Briguiet, 1949.

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    This book presents itself as a mix of fact and fiction. It takes as a point of departure the historical fact of the importance of peddling to Arab immigrants, a profession that is considered instrumental in their upward mobility in Brazil. The author provides fictionalized vignettes of Arab peddlers’ adventures throughout Brazil, often emphasizing their contributions to Brazilian nationhood. (Title translation: Memories of a peddler.)

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  • Ghanem, Sadalla Amin. Impressões de Viagem (Libano-Brasil). Niterói, Brazil: Graphica Brasil, 1936.

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    This travelogue is written by a Lebanese immigrant studying medicine in Brazil. It covers the author’s trajectory traveling from Lebanon to Brazil, with many other global stops along the way. Like many of the other books in this section, the author intertwines essays with historical theses and musings on cultural differences between Lebanon and Brazil into his travel impressions. (Title translation: Travel impressions (Lebanon-Brazil).)

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  • Kurban, Taufik. Os Syrios e Libanezes no Brasil. São Paulo, Brazil: Sociedade Impressora Paulista, 1933.

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    The author of this book was a former professor at the American University of Beirut and a member of the “Liga Andaluza de Letras Arabes” (Andalusian League of Arabic Letters). The book presents historical theses on topics like causes of migration and the link between Syrian and Lebanese people in Brazil and ancient Phoenicians. (Title translation:The Syrians and Lebanese in Brazil.)

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Biographies and Autobiographies

Biographies and autobiographies, published in both Arabic and Portuguese, were popular genres in the Southern Mahjar. Biographies like Maʿluf 1930 are helpful in illustrating the impact that prominent Southern Mahjar figures had in their local communities in Brazil as well as in the Middle East. Autobiography seems to have been an especially popular genre. Duoun 1943, Farhat 1975, and Safady 1966 give us personal accounts of migration trajectories that very often involved many stops before Brazil. Many autobiographies, like Duoun 1944 and Safady 1966, also borrow from the hybrid prose genre described in the Histories section in their inclusion of historical theses, travel writing, philosophy, and fictional musings.

  • Duoun, T. Confissões e indiscrições: Meio século de experiências em quatro continentes. São Paulo, Brazil: n.p, 1943.

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    Tawfiq Duʿun was a prominent Southern Mahjar intellectual whose name is sometimes transliterated as T. Duoun. In this first part of his autobiography, he recounts the many global migrations that would eventually lead him to São Paulo, Brazil. There is also an Arabic version of this book titled Sīrat Ḥayāti (The biography of my life), though there are some differences in the versions in each language. (Title translation: Confessions and indiscretions: A half-century of experiences on four continents.)

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  • Duoun, T. A emigração sirio-libanesa às terras de promissão. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Árabe, 1944.

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    In this second part of Tawfiq Duʿun’s autobiography, the author offers a more collective account of the Syro-Lebanese presence in Brazil. This volume is a much more hybrid genre that resembles the works discussed in the Histories section. There is also an Arabic version of this book titled Dhikrā al-Hijra (Memories of migration), though there are some differences in the versions in each language. (Title translation: Syro-Lebanese emigration to the promised lands.)

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  • Farhat, Elias. Dhikrīyātī Bayna Ṣabāḥ al-Ḥayāt wa-Masāʾihā. Belo Horizonte, Brazil: Farhat, 1975.

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    Elias Farhat was a prominent Arabic poet in the Southern Mahjar in the mid-20th century. In his autobiography, he discusses his childhood, his move to Brazil, and his encounters with other Southern Mahjar intellectuals. The book includes personal photographs and poetry as well. (Title translation: My memories from the dawn and dusk of life.)

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  • Maʿluf, Fawzi. Dhikrā Fawzī Al-Maʿlūf. Brazil?: n.p, 1930.

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    This posthumous biography of eminent Southern Mahjar poet Fawzi Maʿluf celebrates his life and accomplishments in both the Middle East and Brazil. It includes letters, poems, and the international press coverage dedicated to him after his death. (Title translation: Memories of Fawzi Maʿluf.)

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  • Safady, Wadih. Cenas e cenários dos caminhos da minha vida. São Paulo, Brazil: Estabelecimentos Graficos Santa Maria, 1966.

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    Safady’s autobiography covers his childhood in Lebanon as well as his trajectory to Brazil. He discusses his studies at the American University of Beirut in some detail. He also mixes travel writing and historical theses into his personal memories, making this source similar in genre to those discussed in the Histories section. (Title translation: Scenes and scenarios from the paths of my life.)

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Secondary Historical Sources

An expanding body of scholarship on the Arab diaspora in Brazil offers useful frameworks for understanding sources from the Primary Historical Sources section. This scholarship has also helped uncover other relevant primary historical sources and archives. For example, Fersan 2007 discusses the Arab diaspora in Brazil from the perspective of the archives of the French consular corps. Narbona 2007 analyzes articulations of nationalist identities that emerged in the transnational dialogues in which the Arab immigrant press in South America participated. Fahrenthold 2014 approaches primary sources from the perspective of gender, focusing specifically on constructions of masculinity. Najar 2012 focuses on race—particularly on positivist whiteness—as a way of challenging conventional narratives of the upward mobility of Arab immigrants in Brazil. Lesser 1996 offers a historical perspective on ethnic labels, while Truzzi 2018 focuses specifically on mobility and integration.

  • Fahrenthold, Stacy. “Sound Minds in Sound Bodies: Transnational Philanthropy and Patriotic Masculinity in al-Nadi al-Homsi and Syrian Brazil, 1920-32.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 46.2 (2014): 259–283.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0020743814000105Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This fascinating article looks at a youth club for Syrian males in Brazil and how it promoted notions of transnational masculinity in the service of the liberation of Syria. It is valuable for its much-needed analysis of gender, and is perhaps the only source to deal specifically with constructions of masculinity within the history of the Arab diaspora in Brazil.

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  • Fersan, Eliane N. “Os imigrantes sírio-libaneses no Brasil entre 1920 e 1926: Percepção do corpo consular francês.” In Os Árabes e suas Américas. Edited by Denise Fagundes Jardim and Marco Aurélio Machado de Oliveira, 63–97. Campo Grande, Brazil: Editora Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, 2007.

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    This essay looks at the Arab presence in Brazil from a unique historical angle: that of the French consular corps in the early to mid-1920s. It explores how the French sought to establish ties with Brazil’s Arab community for economic reasons and in order to secure political support for the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon. (Chapter title translation: Syro-Lebanese immigrants in Brazil between 1920 and 1926: Perceptions from the French consular corps. Book title translation: The Arabs and their Americas.)

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  • Lesser, Jeffrey. “(Re) Creating Ethnicity: Middle Eastern Immigration to Brazil.” The Americas 53.1 (July 1996): 45–65.

    DOI: 10.2307/1007473Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article focuses both on the ethnic labels created and claimed by Middle Eastern immigrants in Brazil, and on those through which other Brazilians perceived them. It pays particular attention to the label “sírio-libanês” (Syro-Lebanese), and to the challenges of creating hyphenated post-migration identities that are legible to outsiders while still accounting for internal differences within immigrant communities.

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  • Najar, José D. “The Privileges of Positivist Whiteness: The Syrian-Lebanese of São Paulo, Brazil (1888–1939).” PhD diss., Indiana University, 2012.

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    This dissertation challenges prevailing narratives of the merit-based social mobility and economic integration of Arabs in Brazil by focusing on the question of race and racial classification. It argues that up to the 1930s, Syrian-Lebanese immigrants participated in and reaped the benefits of constructions of positivist whiteness.

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  • Narbona, Maria del Mar Logroño. “The Development of Nationalist Identities in French Syria and Lebanon: A Transnational Dialogue with Arab Immigrants to Argentina and Brazil, 1915–1929.” PhD diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2007.

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    This dissertation explores how Arab immigrants in Argentina and Brazil participated in imagining and constructing the modern nation-states of Syria and Lebanon from abroad. It draws heavily from the Arab immigrant presses in Argentina and Brazil in developing its arguments. The author also includes a chapter on gender and the role Arab women in both countries played in their immigrant communities, which remains an understudied topic.

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  • Truzzi, Oswaldo. Syrian and Lebanese Patrícios in São Paulo: From the Levant to Brazil. Translated by Ramon Stern. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.5406/j.ctv513cnpSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This historical account mainly focuses on the economic integration and upward social mobility of Arab communities in São Paulo. It adds to the “peddler-to-proprietor” narrative articulated in Lesser 1992 (in the General Overviews section) by exploring Arab immigrants and their descendants’ more recent entrance into professions like medicine, law, engineering, and politics.

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Specific Communities

Researchers and students interested in learning more about Arab communities in particular parts of Brazil can access scholarship specific to many different cities or states. Greiber, et al. 1998 and Truzzi 2018 focus on São Paulo. Pinto 2010 focuses on Rio de Janeiro. Peters 2007 focuses on Rio Grande do Sul. Nunes 2000 focuses on Goiás. Lamarão 2007 focuses on Brazil’s northeastern region, while Jardim 2007 focuses on the southernmost part of the country.

  • Greiber, Betty Loeb, Lina Saigh Maluf, and Vera Cattini Mattar. Memórias da imigração: Libaneses e sírios em São Paulo. São Paulo, Brazil: Discurso Editorial, 1998.

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    This book brings together a rich collection of oral histories collected from Lebanese and Syrian immigrants in São Paulo through interviews. (Title translation: Memories of migration: Lebanese and Syrians in São Paulo.)

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  • Jardim, Denise Fagundes. “Os palestinos no extremo sul do Brasil e a evocação da origem.” In Os Árabes e suas Américas. Edited by Denise Fagundes Jardim and Marco Aurélio Machado de Oliveira, 243–262. Campo Grande, Brazil: Editora Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, 2007.

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    This essay explores the necessity of moving beyond narratives of assimilation in order to also understand how Arab immigrants forge ties to notions of “origin” through social events and relationships. It focuses on Palestinian communities in the southernmost part of Brazil, such as in the city of Chuí, which borders Uruguay. (Chapter title translation: Palestinians in the southernmost part of Brazil and the evocation of origin. Book title translation: The Arabs and their Americas.)

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  • Lamarão, Sergio Tadeu Niemeyer. “A dimensão nacional do processo imigratório dos sírios e libaneses no Brasil: Os patrícios no Nordeste.” In Os Árabes e suas Américas. Edited by Denise Fagundes Jardim and Marco Aurélio Machado de Oliveira, 37–61. Campo Grande, Brazil: Editora Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, 2007.

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    This essay discusses Syrian and Lebanese immigration to Brazil’s Northeast. It focuses on immigrant communities in Piauí, Ceará, Maranhão, Bahia, and Pernambuco. (Chapter title translation: The national dimension of the immigration process of Syrian and Lebanese People in Brazil: The patrícios of the Northeast. Book title translation: The Arabs and their Americas.)

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  • Nunes, Heliane Prudente. A imigração árabe em Goiás. Goiânia, Brazil: Editora da Universidade Federal de Goiás, 2000.

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    This book provides a historical account of Arab immigration to the central Brazilian state of Goiás between 1880 and 1970. It relies on both archival research and oral histories. (Title translation: Arab immigration in Goiás.)

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  • Peters, Roberta. “Imigrantes palestinos no Estado do Rio Grande do Sul: Casamento, política, e identidade étnica.” In Os Árabes e suas Américas. Edited by Denise Fagundes Jardim and Marco Aurélio Machado de Oliveira, 181–200. Campo Grande, Brazil: Editora Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, 2007.

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    This essay is focused on Palestinian immigrants and their descendants in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Using an ethnographic approach, the author explores how wedding celebrations within this community can be understood as political events that participate in the creation of ethnic identities. (Chapter title translation: Palestinian immigrants in the Rio Grande do Sul State: Marriage, politics, and ethnic identity. Book title translation: The Arabs and their Americas.)

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  • Pinto, Paulo Gabriel Hilu da Rocha. Árabes no Rio de Janeiro: Uma identidade plural. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Cidade Viva, 2010.

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    This is the most comprehensive source available for those specifically interested in Arab communities in Rio de Janeiro. (Title translation: Arabs in Rio de Janeiro: A plural identity.)

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  • Truzzi, Oswaldo. Syrian and Lebanese Patrícios in São Paulo: From the Levant to Brazil. Translated by Ramon Stern. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.5406/j.ctv513cnpSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This source will be especially useful to those interested in the history of Arab communities within São Paulo, which is the Brazilian state that received the most Arab immigrants.

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Global Diasporic Context

There are many sources which, while not specifically focused on the Arab diaspora in Brazil, will provide valuable global context for understanding Arab communities in Brazil. Hourani and Shehadi 1992 is a classic reference for any study of the Lebanese diaspora in a global context, one that can be given more contemporary nuance by other sources in this section. Khuri-Makdisi 2010 includes Brazil’s Arab diaspora as a small part of a much wider history of global radicalism in the Eastern Mediterranean. Khater 2001 focuses more on the role of migration and return migration in shaping Lebanon itself, a narrative that actually proves crucial to understanding the sectors of Lebanese society who would migrate to the Americas. While these sources are useful for understanding the Arab diaspora in Brazil in the context of global Arab diasporas, Lesser 1999 will help the reader understand the Arab diaspora as part of a larger history of immigration to Brazil.

  • Hourani, Albert, and Nadim Shehadi, eds. The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration. London: Centre for Lebanese Studies, 1992.

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    This canonical source on Lebanese migration features essays on Arab communities in the Americas, Australia, and Africa. It offers two essays specific to Brazil: Knowlton 1992 and Lesser 1992 (cited in General Overviews). Many of the other essays offer relevant frameworks for understanding the Arab diaspora in Brazil as part of a larger phenomenon of Lebanese migration across the globe.

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  • Khater, Akram Fouad. Inventing Home: Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 1870–1920. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001.

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    This book focuses on the role of migration and return migration in helping to shape a modern middle class in Lebanon. While it does not focus specifically on Brazil, this source’s exploration of the factors that led to migration to the Americas is absolutely essential to understanding the Arab diaspora in Brazil. Its focus on gender and on women’s experiences is also a unique and a much-needed scholarly intervention.

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  • Khuri-Makdisi, Ilham. The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 18601914. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520262010.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book traces a history of radicalism, including the dissemination of socialist and anarchist views and practices, throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from 1860 to 1914. It is attentive to the ways in which Syrian and Lebanese immigrants abroad, including those in Brazil, were able to participate in the development of this radicalism. In developing its arguments, it makes a few specific references to the Arabic press in Brazil.

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  • Lesser, Jeffrey. Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1999.

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    This source explores how different minority groups navigated and participated in the construction of national identities in Brazil throughout the 20th century, including the obstacles created by periods of intensified racism and xenophobia.

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Religious Identities

Arab communities in Brazil lay claim to complex and multifaceted religious identities. Because the majority of the Arab immigrants who initially came to Brazil were Christians, earlier scholarship tended to overlook stories of Muslim immigrants who participated in this diaspora. Recently, more scholarly attention has been devoted to Muslim communities in Brazil, including those who are part of the Arab diaspora. For example, Osman 2011 presents oral histories of both Lebanese Christians and Muslims in Brazil. Montenegro 2002 looks at the interplay between Arab and Muslim identities in Brazil. Pinto 2014 examines local and transnational articulations of Islam in Rio de Janeiro and the Tri-Border Region, where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet. Scholars have also paid attention to how Muslims who are part of the Arab diaspora have engaged with other Muslim communities in the Americas. For example, Pinto 2015 looks at the dynamics between older Muslim communities and newer converts to Islam in Brazil. Narbona, et al. 2015 looks at articulations of Islam in a hemispheric-wide context throughout the Americas.

  • Montenegro, Silvia. “Identidades muçulmanas no Brasil: Entre o arabismo e a islamização.” Lusotopie 9.2 (2002): 59–79.

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    This article uses empirical research to analyze the complex strategies through which Muslim communities in Brazil construct their identities, including in relation to discourses of Arabism and Islamization. It is an interesting source to read alongside more current ones, such as Pinto 2014. (Title translation: Muslim identities in Brazil: Between Arabism and Islamization.)

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  • Narbona, Maria del Mar Logroño, Paulo G. Pinto, and John Tofik Karam. Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino U.S. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015.

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    This edited volume brings together essays that provide fresh theoretical perspectives on Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. The essays can provide useful pan-American context for researchers and students interested in religion in the Arab diaspora in Brazil.

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  • Osman, Samira Adel. Imigração árabe no Brasil: Histórias de vida de libaneses muçulmanos e cristãos. São Paulo, Brazil: Xamã, 2011.

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    This book is notable for the author’s use of oral histories to tell the stories of Lebanese immigrants in Brazil. It focuses on the multifaceted religious identities that these immigrants claim. The stories also provide interesting perspectives on immigrants’ everyday lives in Brazil. (Title translation: Arab immigration in Brazil: Life stories of Lebanese Muslims and Christians.)

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  • Pinto, Paulo Gabriel Hilu da Rocha. “Muslim Identities in Brazil: Engaging Local and Transnational Spheres.” In The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Edited by Paul Amar, 241–256. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014.

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    This essay focuses on Muslim communities in Rio de Janeiro and the Tri-Border Region (where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet) in order to explore the diverse range of identities and practices to which they lay claim, including how these are influenced by the interplay between Muslim identity and Arab ethnicity.

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  • Pinto, Paulo. G. “Conversion, Revivalism, and Tradition: The Religious Dynamics of Muslim Communities in Brazil.” In Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino U.S. Edited by Maria del Mar Logroño Narbona, Paulo G. Pinto, and John Tofik Karam, 107–143. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015.

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    This essay examines how immigrants from the Arab Middle East first built Islamic institutions in Brazil, and the dynamics that now exist between these communities and more recent converts to Islam in the country.

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Cultural Production

Arab immigrants have a long history of prolific cultural production in Brazil, one that spans back to their initial arrival in the country and continues to this day. Arab immigrants in Brazil wrote a variety of dynamic prose and poetry genres in both Arabic and Portuguese, some of which have already been discussed in the Primary Historical Sources section. This history continues in the early 21st century, with prominent novelists like Milton Hatoum and Alberto Mussa continuing to draw on themes related to the Arab diaspora in Brazil in their popular novels. Scholarship on the cultural production of Arab immigrants in Brazil has tended to be divided linguistically, though more recent sources are taking a more translingual and transnational approach. In addition to Arab immigrants’ own cultural output, there is also a long history of cultural politics through which Arab immigrants have responded to representations of their communities in Brazilian media and culture.

Early Southern Mahjar Literature

The scholarship in this section tends to focus primarily on Arabic-language cultural production in Brazil from the early- to the mid-20th century, which it commonly labels Southern Mahjar literature (though this label technically refers to literature authored by Arab immigrants throughout South America). Sources such as Akasoy 2006 and Jayyusi 1977 focus specifically on Arabic poetry authored in Brazil, which has received much more critical attention than prose genres from this period. Ferreira 2016 offers a perspective on prose through an exploration of autobiography. Naʿuri 1977 and Saydah 1964 explore Arabic literature in the entire Mahjar (North and South America). While sources that do this often end up privileging Arab authors in the United States, both of these sources are inclusive of writers in Brazil. Muhammad 1977 covers the history of the most important literary society of Southern Mahjar writers and intellectuals in Brazil. Many of these sources understand early Southern Mahjar literature as an extension of Arabic literature.

  • Akasoy, Anna. “Exile and Alienation in the Poetry of the Early Southern Mahjar.” In ArabAmericas: Literary Entanglements of the American Hemisphere and the Arab World. Edited by Ottmar Ette and Friederike Pannewick, 83–99. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2006.

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    This essay provides a reading of the themes of exile and alienation in the poetry of Fawzi Maʿluf, who was one of the leading Arabic poets in the early Southern Mahjar (See Maʿluf 1930, cited under Biographies and Autobiographies). It explores and connects themes of both political and spiritual alienation in Maʿluf’s poetry. It is one of few English-language sources to discuss Southern Mahjar poetry.

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  • Ferreira, Silvia C. “Confessions and Indiscretions: Translating the Self in the Southern Mahjar.” Journal of Arabic Literature 47.3 (December 2016): 278–305.

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    This article takes up the genre of autobiography in the Southern Mahjar. It analyzes a case of Arabic-Portuguese self-translation in order to offer insights into the genre’s development in Brazil, as well as into the role that translation played in the articulation of diasporic identities in the Southern Mahjar.

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  • Jayyusi, Salma K. “Arabic Poetry in the Americas.” In Trends and Movements in Modern Arabic Poetry. Vol. 1. Translated by Salma K. Jayyusi and Christopher Tingley, 67–138. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1977.

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    This source is one of the earliest and still one of few existing English-language explorations of Southern Mahjar poetry. However, it is sometimes dismissive of Southern Mahjar poetry compared to what it presents as the much more innovative poetry of the Northern Mahjar in the United States. While these assumptions should be read skeptically, the source still provides valuable insights into various Southern Mahjar poets and poems.

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  • Muhammad, Naʿimah Murad. al-ʿUṣba al-Andalusīyya. Alexandria, Egypt: Munshaʾat al-Maʿarif, 1977.

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    This book covers the history of al-ʿUsba al-Andalusiyya (Andalusian League), known as “Liga Andaluza de Letras Arabes” (Andalusian League of Arabic Letters) in Portuguese, which was the most famous organization of Southern Mahjar writers and intellectuals in early- to mid-20th-century Brazil. It discusses the organization’s magazine al-ʿUṣba (The League) (cited in the Newspapers and Magazines section) and many of its most prominent members. (Title translation: The Andalusian League.)

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  • Naʿuri, ʿIsa. Adab al-Mahjar. 3d ed. Cairo, Egypt: Dar al-maʿarif, 1977.

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    This book covers Arabic literature authored throughout the Mahjar. A fair number of Southern Mahjar writers are represented here and can easily be found in the book’s index. (Title translation: Mahjar literature.)

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  • Saydah, Jurj. Adabunā wa-Udabāʾunā fī al-Mahājir al-Amīrikīyya. 3d ed. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-ʿIlm lil-malayin, 1964.

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    This classic source focuses on Arabic-language Mahjar literature from throughout the Americas (Northern Mahjar and Southern Mahjar). Unlike many other sources that claim to cover the entire Mahjar, the reader interested in the Arab diaspora in Brazil will find plenty of valuable information here about Southern Mahjar poets, essayists, and journalists. The book also includes a useful index that will allow the researcher to search for writers by name. (Title translation: Our literature and authors in the Americas.)

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Transnational Approaches to Literature

More contemporary scholarship tends to take a transnational approach to literature authored by Arab immigrants in Brazil. Sources such as Mussa 2006 look to both Arabic and Brazilian influences in reflecting on the literary inheritance of the Arab diaspora in Brazil. Vargas 2006 provides a comprehensive account of this literature’s intersections with migration and the nation. Vargas 2014 focuses on the multiple influences and languages through which Arab immigrant writers sought to rework nationalist discourses in Brazil. Sources like Ferreira 2014b and Hassan 2017 present overviews of literature authored by Arab immigrants in Brazil that stress its transnational and translingual character. Hassan 2014 and Ferreira 2014a each examine a contemporary Brazilian author who develops themes related to the Arab diaspora in Brazil in their works. Ette and Pannewick 2006 provides useful pan-American perspectives for understanding literature related to the Arab diaspora in Brazil.

  • Ette, Ottmar, and Friederike Pannewick, eds. ArabAmericas: Literary Entanglements of the American Hemisphere and the Arab World. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2006.

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    This edited volume presents a variety of essays on topics related to literary circulations between the Arab world and the Americas. Some essays are written by acclaimed novelists who engage with themes of migration in their works.

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  • Ferreira, Silvia C. “Excavating Mashriqi Roots in the Mahjar: Agriculture and Assimilation in Raduan Nassar’s Lavoura arcaica.” Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East & North African Migration Studies 2.2 (Fall/Winter 2014a).

    DOI: 10.24847/22i2014.38Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article presents a reading of Raduan Nassar’s novel Lavoura arcaica (Ancient tillage) that contextualizes the work within the tradition of Arab-Brazilian literature. It focuses specifically on how authors like Nassar have used agrarian spaces like farms in their novels as a space for exploring conflicted migrant identities.

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  • Ferreira, Silvia C. “Turco Peddlers, Brazilian Plantationists, and Transnational Arabs: The Genre Triangle of Levantine-Brazilian Literature.” In The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Edited by Paul Amar, 279–295. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014b.

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    This essay presents a genre-based framework for understanding Portuguese-language literature published by Arab communities in Brazil throughout the 20th century. It explores how writers used different genres and strategies to either assimilate into or distance themselves from changing nationalist discourses.

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  • Hassan, Waïl S. “Arab-Brazilian Literature: Alberto Mussa’s Mu’allaqa and South-South Dialogue.” In The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Edited by Paul Amar, 322–335. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014.

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    This essay focuses on the works of Alberto Mussa in order to argue that Arab-Brazilian literature has the potential to offer new South-South paradigms for engaging with world literature. An earlier version of the essay was first published in Arabic in Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics.

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  • Hassan, Waïl S. “Brazil.” In The Oxford Handbook of Arab Novelistic Traditions. Edited by Waïl S. Hassan. Oxford Handbooks Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

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    This contribution to a handbook on Arab novelistic genres explores how the Arabic novel developed in Brazil. It focuses on novels written in both Arabic and Portuguese, arguing that the genre of the Arabic novel has experienced important developments in Brazil as it has been shaped by first-generation, second-generation, and third-generation Arab-Brazilian authors.

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  • Mussa, Alberto. “Who Is Facing the Mirror?” In ArabAmericas: Literary Entanglements of the American Hemisphere and the Arab World. Edited by Ottmar Ette and Friederike Pannewick, 189–196. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2006.

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    This autobiographical literary essay is written by acclaimed Arab-Brazilian novelist Alberto Mussa. In it, Mussa explores how he was able to use Arabic and Brazilian literatures to reflect on his hyphenated identity.

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  • Vargas, Armando. “Migration, Literature and the Nation: Mahjar Literature in Brazil.” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2006.

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    This dissertation offers an account of how Arab writers in Brazil engaged with different discourses of nation-building in their varied literary output throughout the 20th century. Vargas’s readings offer productive comparative frameworks for understanding literature authored by Arabs in Brazil across genres and languages.

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  • Vargas, Armando. “Multiple Homelands: Heritage and Migrancy in Brazilian Mahjari Literature.” In The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Edited by Paul Amar, 296–307. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014.

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    This essay offers a brief overview of how Arab immigrant writers employ creative rhetorical strategies to respond to nationalist discourses in Brazil. It argues that these writers often repurpose the very language and images through which they are left out of mainstream imaginings of the Brazilian nation.

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Cultural Politics

The scholarship in this section looks at how Arab communities in Brazil have been represented in Brazilian media and culture—including news media, soap operas, dances, and political rhetoric—and how they have responded to these representations. Lesser 1997 examines historical examples of elite images of Jews and Arabs in Brazil. Karam 2010 analyzes the popularization of belly dancing in Brazil. Karam 2013 looks at stereotypical depictions of “corrupt” Arabs, such as in politics. Hassan 2018 and Montenegro 2014 examine a popular Brazilian telenovela (soap opera) set in Morocco and Brazil. Alsultany and Shohat 2013 takes up related questions in a pan-American context.

  • Alsultany, Evelyn, and Ella Shohat, eds. Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

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    This edited volume brings together essays on a variety of questions related to the cultural politics of Arab diasporas throughout all of the Americas. While most of the essays are not specific to Brazil, many of the theoretical frameworks articulated in this volume would be valuable to those interested in the Arab diaspora in Brazil.

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  • Hassan, Waïl S. “Carioca Orientalism: Morocco in the Imaginary of a Brazilian Telenovela.” In The Global South Atlantic. Edited by Kerry Bystrom and Joseph R. Slaughter, 274–294. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018.

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    This article explores the popular Brazilian telenovela O Clone (The clone), which portrays a family drama that unfolds between Morocco and Brazil. It focuses on what the telenovela reveals about Brazilian articulations of Orientalism.

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  • Karam, John Tofik. “Belly Dancing and the (En)Gendering of Ethnic Sexuality in the ‘Mixed’ Brazilian Nation.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 6.2 (Spring 2010): 86–114.

    DOI: 10.2979/MEW.2010.6.2.86Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article looks at the popularization of belly dancing in Brazil. It focuses specifically on how Syrian-Lebanese men and Brazilian women who are not of Middle Eastern descent have engaged with the dance, using categories of gender and ethnicity to show how such engagements can reinforce hierarchies based on race and sexuality in Brazil.

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  • Karam, John Tofik. “Turcos in the Mix: Corrupting Arabs in Brazil’s Racial Democracy.” In Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora. Edited by Evelyn Alsultany and Ella Shohat, 80–95. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

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    This article analyzes the different ways in which Arabs in Brazil, including those who hold political office, have responded to stereotypical representation of Arabs as “corrupt.” It considers how these different responses each engage with nationalist discourses on race.

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  • Lesser, Jeffrey. “‘Jews Are Turks Who Sell on Credit’: Elite Images of Arabs and Jews in Brazil.” Immigrants & Minorities 16.1–2 (1997): 38–56.

    DOI: 10.1080/02619288.1997.9974902Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article explores how in mid-20th-century Brazil, elite images of Arab and Jewish immigrants often portrayed these groups as undesirable from a racial perspective. It also explores elite attitudes toward the economic contributions of these groups.

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  • Montenegro, Silvia M. “Telenovelas and Muslim Identities in Brazil.” Translated by Anneliese Pollock. In The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Edited by Paul Amar, 259–278. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014.

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    This essay analyzes the reception of the telenovela O Clone (The clone) among Muslims in Brazil. It explores how both Arab and non-Arab Muslim communities in Brazil responded to the telenovela’s depiction of Islam.

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Contemporary Transnational Circulations

The scholarship in this section explores contemporary transnational circulations between Brazil and the Middle East that can continue to nuance our understanding of the Arab diaspora in Brazil. Osman 2007 and Semerene n.d. explore different aspects of the phenomenon of return migration to Lebanon, while Karam 2014 analyzes practices of “homeland tourism.” Karam 2011 and Rabossi 2014 look at transnational circulations of the rhetoric of the “War on Terror” and how Arab communities in Brazil have mobilized in response. Baeza and Pinto 2016 looks at the ongoing conflict in Syria from the perspective of the Arab diaspora in South America.

  • Baeza, Cecilia, and Paulo Pinto. “Building Support for the Asad Regime: The Syrian Diaspora in Argentina and Brazil and the Syrian Uprising.” Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies 14.3 (2016): 334–352.

    DOI: 10.1080/15562948.2016.1209608Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This fascinating article explores what to many may seem like an unexpected phenomenon: the staunch support many Syrian immigrant organizations in Brazil and Argentina have shown for Bashar al-Asad’s government throughout the conflict in Syria. It is based on original ethnographic fieldwork conducted in cities throughout Brazil and Argentina from 2011 to 2014.

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  • Karam, John Tofik. “Crossing the Americas: The U.S. War on Terror and Arab Cross-Border Mobilizations in a South American Frontier Region.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 31.2 (2011): 251–266.

    DOI: 10.1215/1089201X-1264217Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article focuses on how Arab immigrants and their descendants in the Tri-Border Region (where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet) became the targets of intense media scrutiny and vilification during the start of the “War on Terror.” It also charts how Arab communities in Brazil and Paraguay mobilized to respond to the effects of the US “War on Terror.”

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  • Karam, John Tofik. “The Politics of Anti-Zionism and Racial Democracy in Homeland Tourism.” In The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Edited by Paul Amar, 215–227. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014.

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    The author investigates the phenomenon of “homeland tourism,” whereby Brazilians of Syrian-Lebanese descent have become a target audience for businesses and states that market guided tours of the Middle East. The author participates in one such tour to Lebanon, analyzing the conflicted ways that participants often respond to its ideologies.

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  • Osman, Samira Adel. “A imigração libanesa para o Brasil e o projeto de retorno.” In Os Árabes e suas Américas. Edited by Denise Fagundes Jardim and Marco Aurélio Machado de Oliveira, 161–179. Campo Grande, Brazil: Editora Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, 2007.

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    This essay analyzes the phenomenon of Lebanese immigrants to Brazil returning to Lebanon, a phenomenon that the author argues has become increasingly commonplace since the 1980s. It explores how different generations of Lebanese immigrants approach the project of return in different ways and for different reasons. (Chapter title translation: Lebanese migration to Brazil and the project of return. Book title translation: The Arabs and their Americas.)

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  • Rabossi, Fernando. “Terrorist Frontier Cell or Cosmopolitan Commercial Hub? The Arab and Muslim Presence at the Border of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.” In The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South. Edited by Paul Amar, 92–115. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2014.

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    The author challenges frameworks of “terrorism” that seek to vilify Arab and Muslim populations in The Tri-Border Region, where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. Instead, the author calls for a reading of the region that is attentive to historical patterns of migration and common commercial trajectories that, at one point, transformed the area into a cosmopolitan hub.

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  • Semerene, Gabriel. “Portuguese in Lebanon: Near to the Wild Heart.” Mashallah News, n.d.

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    This short creative piece explores the cultural impact that Arab-Brazilians who return to Lebanon have on their communities. It explains phenomena like a “Brazilian belt” where many returnees live, as well as the prevalence of the Portuguese language in different Lebanese locales.

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Organizations

There are a growing number of organizations dedicated to disseminating information about the Arab diaspora in Brazil and hosting and supporting research agendas related to this diaspora. This section contains a list of news agencies, cultural institutions, museums, and research centers that will be of interest to researchers and students interested in the Arab diaspora in Brazil. The Agência de Notícias Brasil-Árabe (ANBA) is a useful starting point for finding and staying abreast of news related to this diaspora. The Instituto da Cultura Árabe (Icarabe) provides news updates more tailored to culture and the arts. Bibli-ASPA is also an interesting platform that hosts relevant research networks and publications. The Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies offers many exciting opportunities to connect with research on Lebanese diasporas across the globe, with Brazil always well represented in its endeavors. Researchers and students wanting to access primary historical sources digitally can start with the online collections of the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies and the Museu da Imigração do Estado de São Paulo.

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