Skip to main content

Ethnic “Homelands”: Imagining a New Middle East, 1919 – 1948


Institute For Middle East Studies

After 1919, as much of the Middle East was absorbed into the beleaguered but still powerful European empires, a new ideology took hold in the region: the concept of physical separation as a “solution” to a newly identified “problem” of ethnic and religious pluralism. Across Europe and the United States, Armenian, Assyrian, and Jewish diaspora groups proved anxious to demonstrate their belonging in the ingathering of civilized nation-states by supporting the project of a homogenous national “homeland,” however remote it might be from their actual lived experiences. Diaspora lobbying, fundraising, and vocal support for creating ethnically based political entities through strategies of transfer and partition also found a reflection in some Arab discourse, as Palestinian, Syrian, and Iraqi Arab nationalists sought to make claims to independent statehood within a global framework that demanded national homogeneity as a corollary to sovereignty. This talk will explore how diaspora communities shaped the emerging political landscape of the modern Middle East as they declared that the only path to legitimate, recognized political status in the new global order was through identification, however distant, with an ethnic “homeland.”


  • Laura Robson

    Laura Robson is a historian of the modern Middle East. Her current research and teaching focus on the history of religious and ethnic minorities in the twentieth century Arab world. She received her PhD from Yale University in 2009 and is now Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.