Filtering the Frontier: Migrants and Refugees at the Border in the Arab Middle East

AHA Session 232
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Washington Room 3 (Marriott Wardman Park, Exhibition Level)
Shira N. Robinson, George Washington University
Shira N. Robinson, George Washington University

Session Abstract

This panel explores the relationship between the construction of national borders, the policing of migrants, and the emergence of documentary regimes in the post-Ottoman Middle East. The states which emerged in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine after the First World War imposed new restrictions on the mobility of Arab residents, creating nationality regulations which often committed the state to sedentarizing citizens while policing nomads, refugees, and migrants. Cross-border movements were recast as subversive and potentially criminal, and regulations multiplied to manage the movements of everyday migrants. These four papers will closely examine the use of passports and identity documents in this process, arguing that the passport allowed states to legitimate certain types of movement while prohibiting others. The session also gives a close look at connected processes like passport fraud, migrant smuggling, and evasion of state authorities in Arab border regions. Collectively the papers illustrate two global countervailing pressures: the intensification of migration within and beyond the Middle East after 1918, and increasingly rigorous attempts by Middle Eastern states to curb human traffic. In a historiography preoccupied with the relationship of nationalism to elite “imaginings,” this work strikes a blow for the state’s resort to registration and documentation technologies to police who belongs to the nation, and who is excluded from it.
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