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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 April 2014


Established in 1920, al-Nadi al-Homsi in São Paulo, Brazil was a young men's club devoted to Syrian patriotic activism and culture in the American mahjar (diaspora). Founded by a transnational network of intellectuals from Homs, the fraternity committed itself to what it saw as a crucial aspect of Syrian national independence under Amir Faysal: the development of a political middle class and a masculine patriotic culture. Al-Nadi al-Homsi directed this project at Syrian youth, opening orphanages, libraries, and schools in both Syria and in Brazil. In these spaces, men and boys congregated to celebrate a polite male culture centered on secular philanthropy, popular education, and corporeal discipline through sports. This article argues that during the 1920s and 1930s, al-Nadi al-Homsi's politics of benevolence was part of a larger social milieu that drew analogies between strong Syrian minds and bodies and a sovereign, independent Syrian homeland.

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Author's note: All of mahjar studies is a collaborative endeavor, and this contribution is no different. I thank Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Akram Khater, Laura Frader, Shakir Mustafa, Ross Newton, Burleigh Hendrickson, David Schultz, and the reviewers at IJMES for their invaluable feedback as I completed this article. Discussions with Isa Blumi, Andrew Arsan, Stephen Hyland, and John Karam influenced this project's evolution, and I owe them each much gratitude.

1 al-Homsi, Al-Nadi, al-Nadi al-Homsi: Haflat al-Tadshin wa-l-Yubil al-Fadi: Musadarat bi-Fadhlaka Tarikhiyya (São Paulo: Dar al-Tibaʿa wa-l-Nashr al-ʿArabiyya, 1946), 15Google Scholar.

2 Madīnat al-ḥarāra translates here loosely as “city of the sun,” and references Homs’ ancient past. The city was once a settlement devoted to al-gabal, the sun deity. In the Roman period, Apollo became the city's patron. Orthodox Homsis in Brazil frequently invoked images of fire, light, and heat in praise of Homs and its emigrants abroad. Jurj Atlas, “Shabibat Homs fi al-Mahjar,” al-Karma, October 1914, 266.

3 Atlas, “al-Nadi al-Homsi,” al-Kalimat al-Khalida: wa-Hiya Majmuʿa baʿd ma Nashr min Khutub al-Marhum Jurj Atlas fi Jaridat al-Ittihad al-ʿArabi wa-l-Zahrawi wa-Majallat al-Karma (São Paulo: Dar al-Tibaʿa wa-l-Nashr al-ʿArabiyya, 1930), 97, 99.

4 Al-Nadi al-Homsi, al-Nadi al-Homsi, 14–16.

5 Al-Nadi al-Homsi's first library opened on Rua 25 de Março in 1923. When the clubhouse moved in the 1940s, much of the original Arabic collection was donated to Harvard University within the personal papers of Syrian intellectuals. Two common practices allowed me to track these materials. First, the stamps and inscriptions of Maktabat al-Nadi al-Homsi and of the persons who borrowed, bought, and donated the materials establish a visible chain of transfer. Second, because the Syrian emigrant press functioned on a mail-order subscription system, the mobility of texts can be traced through postage markers and the locations of subscribers.

6 The word “colony” comes from the Arabic jāliyya and the Portuguese colônia, and refers to Syrian and Lebanese urban settlements in Brazil. Syrian writers both at home and abroad referred to these settlements as “colonies,” placing them as distant extensions of the Syrian homeland. On this usage, see Karam, John, Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil (Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 2007)Google Scholar, 6–7; Naff, Alixa, “New York: The Mother Colony,” in Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City, ed. Benson, Kathleen and Kayal, Philip (New York: Museum of the City of New York, 2002), 68Google Scholar; and Schiller, Nina Glick and Fouron, Georges Eugene, Georges Woke Up Laughing: Long-Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001), 19CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Karam, Another Arabesque, 10; Issawi, Charles, “The Historical Background of Lebanese Emigration, 1800–1914,” in The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration, ed. Hourani, Albert and Shehadi, Nadim (London: Centre for Lebanese Studies and I. B. Taurus, 1992), 2225Google Scholar; Lesser, Jeffrey, Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999), 49Google Scholar.

8 On peddling, see Naff, Alixa, Becoming American: The Early Arab American Experience (Carbondale, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1985)Google Scholar, 128–61; Gualtieri, Sarah, “Gendering the Chain Migration Thesis: Women and Syrian Transatlantic Migration, 1878–1924,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 24 (2004): 71–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lesser, Jeffrey, “(Re)Creating Ethnicity: Middle Eastern Migration to Brazil,” The Americas 53 (1996): 45CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Karam, Another Arabesque, 71–76.

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11 Khuri-Makdisi, Ilham, The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 1860–1914 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2010), 4654CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Gualtieri, Between Arab and White, 81–92; Arsan, Andrew, “‘This Is the Age of Associations’: Committees, Petitions, and the Roots of Interwar Middle Eastern Internationalism,” Journal of Global History 7 (2012): 169–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Khater, Inventing Home, 147–52; Kallas, Jurj, Tarikh al-Sihafa al-Nisawiyya: Nashaʾtuha wa-Tatawwuruha, 1892–1932 (Beirut: Dar al-Jil, 1996), 5269Google Scholar. See also Baron, Beth, The Women's Awakening in Egypt: Culture, Society, and the Press (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994)Google Scholar.

14 Akram Khater, Inventing Home, 146–70; Gualtieri, “Gendering the Chain Migration Thesis,” 7—72.

15 Schiller, Nina Glick and Fouron, Georges E., “The Generation of Identity: Redefining the Second Generation within a Transnational Social Field,” in The Changing Face of Home: The Transnational Lives of the Second Generation, ed. Levitt, Peggy and Waters, Mary C. (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002), 193Google Scholar, cited in Leichtman, Mara A., “The Legacy of Transnational Lives: Beyond the First Generation of Lebanese in Senegal,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 28 (2005): 664CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 On economic factors in chain migration, see Tilly, Charles, “Migration in Modern European History,” in The Migration Reader: Exploring Politics and Policies, ed. Messina, Anthony M. and Lahav, Gallya (Boulder, Colo. and London: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2006), 131–32Google Scholar; on social factors, see Tilly, Charles, “Trust Networks in Transnational Migration,” Sociological Forum 22 (2007): 35CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 Asʿad, ʿIsa, Tarikh Homs, vol. 2 (Homs: Matrana Homs al-Urthudhuksiyya, 1983), 36, 416Google Scholar.

18 Jafet, Antuniyus, Dhikrayyat: Nisf Qarn 1904–1954 (São Paulo: Dar al-Tibaʿa wa-l-Nashr al-ʿArabiyya, 1957), 2529Google Scholar.

19 Clark Knowlton,”The Social and Spatial Mobility of the Syrian and Lebanese Community in São Paulo, Brazil,” in Hourani and Shehadi, Lebanese in the World, 303.

20 ʿAtallah, Athanasius, Yawmiyyat Mutran Homs li-l-Rum al-Urthudhuks, 1888–1891, ed. Samʿan, Nihad Munir (Beirut: Dar al-Nahar, 2006), 15Google Scholar.

21 Asʿad, ʿIsa, Tarikh Homs, vol. 2 (Homs: Matrana Homs al-Urthuduksiyya, 1983), 36Google Scholar.

22 The Ottoman constitution's 1908 restoration was widely celebrated across the Syrian diaspora. For details on a festival in Buenos Aires, see Hyland, “‘Arisen from Deep Slumber,’” 562.

23 Asʿad, Tarikh Homs, 425–26.

24 Both men joined al-Fatat al-ʿArabi in 1916. This party was Homs’ local wing of Faysal's organization, Hizb al-Istiqlal al-ʿArabi. Khoury, Philip S., “Factionalism among Syrian Nationalists during the French Mandate,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 13 (1981): 442Google Scholar.

25 Hafiz Khizam al-Homsi, “Risalat al-Mutatawwi al-Suri al-Homsi fi al-Jaysh al-Faransawi,” al-Saʾih, 10 April 1916, 1; Khizam, “Fi Sahat al-Qital,” al-Saʾih, 20 July 1916, 1.

26 Bregain, Gildas, Syriens et Libanais d'Amerique du Sud, 1918–1945 (Paris: l'Harmattan, 2008), 141–44Google Scholar; Maria Narbona, “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), 44–45.

27 Jackson, Simon, “Diaspora Politics and Developmental Empire: The Syro-Lebanese at the League of Nations,” Arab Studies Journal 21 (2013): 171–74Google Scholar.

28 Asʿad, Tarikh Homs, 430.

29 Thompson, Elizabeth, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 6668Google Scholar.

30 Asʿad, Tarikh Homs, 434.

31 Jacob, Wilson Chacko, Working Out Egypt: Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870–1940 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011), 6568Google Scholar; these images were part of a larger familial nationalism that assigned complementary roles to men and women. See also Baron, Beth, Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2005), 107–10Google Scholar; Pollard, Lisa, Nurturing the Nation: the Family Politics of Modernizing, Colonizing, and Liberating Egypt, 1805–1923 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2005), 168–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Fleischmann, Ellen, “The ‘Woman Question’ in Palestine and the Debate in the Arabic Press,” The Nation and Its ‘New’ Women: The Palestinian Women's Movement, 1920–1948 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2003), 6391CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 Back cover ad for Mahal Mahradawi, “Maʿrid al-Muda wa-l-Azyaʾ al-Haditha,” al-Karma, January 1927.

33 In 1910, Sallum Mukarzil developed the Arabic wax linotype press, making printing in Arabic less costly. A burst of Arabic printing in the Americas followed. Mokarzel, Mary, Al-Hoda 1898–1968: The Story of Lebanon and Its Emigrants as Taken from the Newspaper al-Hoda (New York: al-Hoda Press, 1968), 34Google Scholar.

34 al-Zahrawi, Naʿim Salim, al-Usar Homs wa-Amakin al-ʿIbada: Dirasa Wathaʾiqiyya, 1840–1918 (Homs: Dar Harmun, 1995), 198Google Scholar.

35 Jurj Atlas, “Ana,” al-Kalimat al-Khalida, 16.

36 Jurj Atlas, “Falsafat al-Haqiqa wa-l-Khiyal,” al-Kalimat al-Khalida, 17.

37 Jurj Atlas, “Shabibat Homs fi al-Mahjar,” al-Karma, December 1914, 265.

38 Faris Najm, “al-Sihafa al-Suriyya fi al-Barazil: Min Jamʿiyyat al-Sihafa al-Baraziliyya,” al-Karma, March 1922, 91.

39 Atlas, “Falsafat al-Haqiqa wa-l-Khiyal,” 21.

40 Narbona, “The Development of Nationalist Identities,” 94–95, 105.

41 Al-Nadi al-Homsi, al-Nadi al-Homsi, 7.

42 Ibid., 14.

43 Lacking a formal membership roster, al-Nadi al-Homsi printed the names of the club's executive officers in their silver jubilee volume, revealing a largely Orthodox membership with a sizable Protestant minority. “Jadul al-Muntazimin fi Idarat al-Nadi al-Homsi,” al-Nadi al-Homsi, 107–10.

44 Al-Nadi al-Homsi, al-Nadi al-Homsi, 10–11.

45 Ibid., 8–10, 15.

46 Khalil Saʿadih founded the first known Syrian Masonic lodge in Brazil, al-Najmat al-Suriyya, in 1920. Members of the lodge typically contributed to al-Nadi al-Homsi events, either as speakers or as members. See Hamiya, ʿAli, al-ʿAllama wa-l-Duktur Khalil Saʿadih: Siratuhu wa-Aʿmaluhu (Beirut: al-Furat li-l-Nashr, 2007), 170Google Scholar.

47 Al-Nadi al-Homsi, al-Nadi al-Homsi, 11.

48 Atlas, “al-Nadi al-Homsi,” al-Kalimat al-Khalida, 98–99.

49 Shukri al-Khuri, “Sijil al-Asbaqiyya: Awaʾil Tarikhiyya li-l-Hijra al-Lubnaniyya fi al-Barazil,” Abu al-Hawl (s.d. 1924), 3–5.

50 Khuri-Makdisi, The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 51–54.

51 Henry Melki, al-Sihafa al-ʿArabiyya fi al-Mahjar, 97–99.

52 Reid, Donald M., “The Syrian Christians and Early Socialism in the Arab World,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 5 (1974): 180–81, 183Google Scholar.

53 Khalil Saʿadih is best known in relation to his son, Antun Saʿadih, who founded al-Hizb al-Qawmi al-Ijtimaʿi al-Suri in 1932. See Schumann, Christoph, “Nationalism, Diaspora, and ‘Civilizational Mission’: The Case of Syrian Nationalism in Latin America between WWI and WWII,” Nations and Nationalism 10, no. 4 (2004): 599617CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

54 Khalil Saʿadih, “Khutba fi Taʾbin Farah Antun,” al-Nadi al-Homsi, 112–23.

55 Ibid., 116.

56 Ayalon, Ami, The Press in the Arab Middle East: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 71Google Scholar.

57 Saʿadih, “Khutba,” 119.

58 Ibid., 119.

59 Ibid., 114.

60 Ener, Mine, Managing Egypt's Poor and the Politics of Benevolence, 1800–1952 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003), 2223Google Scholar.

61 Ibid., 99–100.

62 Ibid., 24.

63 Ibid., 1–3, 107, 111; al-Nadi al-Homsi, al-Nadi al-Homsi, 13.

64 Knowlton, “The Social and Spatial Mobility,” 304–306.

65 Ibid., 299–301.

66 Saʿadih opened al-Madrasa al-Suriyya in Buenos Aires in 1915; see “Haflat Khariji al-Madrasa al-Suriyya,” al-Majalla 13, no. 13 (December 1915): 377. Salwa Atlas opened a similar school in São Paulo in 1914; see Jurj Atlas, “Haflat Tadshin al-Karma,” al-Karma, July 1914, 90–91; and Salwa Salama Atlas, “al-Mustashfa fi Homs,” al-Karma, January 1927, 20.

67 Zaytun, Nazir, Fi Dhurwat al-Wataniyya wa-l-Insaniyya: al-Maytam al-Suri fi San Bawlu fi Mahrajanihi al-Dhahabi (Damascus: Matabiʿ ibn Zaydun, 1958), 6Google Scholar.

68 ʿAtallah, Yawmiyyat Mutran Homs, 145.

69 Zaytun, Fi Dhurwat al-Wataniyya wa-l-Insaniyya, 7.

70 Ibid., 30.

71 Ibid., 45.

72 Fattuh, ʿIsa, “Daud Qustantin al-Khuri, Muʾallifan, Masrahiyyan, wa-Fananan,” Shumuʿ fi al-Dabab: Dirasa fi Hayat wa-ʿAmal Nukhba min Aʿlam al-Adab al-Hadith fi Suriya wa-l-Mahjar (Beirut: al-Manara, 1992), 1516Google Scholar; Zaytun, Fi Dhurwat al-Wataniyya wa-l-Insaniyya, 45–46.

73 Zaytun, Fi Dhurwat al-Wataniyya wa-l-Insaniyya, 30.

74 ʿIsa Asʿad, “al-Aytam,” Homs, 14 June 1924, 1.

75 25 March was an auspicious day in Brazilian history, marking the anniversary of Brazil's federation and 1824 constitution. Syrian nationalists in São Paulo celebrated “Constitution Day” and openly drew analogies between Brazil's colonial past and Syria's imperial present. al-Rabita al-Adabiyya, Jamʿiyyat, Aʿmal Jamʿiyyat al-Rabita al-Adabiyya wa-Maytamuha al-Urthuduksiyya fi Homs (Homs: Matbaʿat al-Salama, 1948), 3Google Scholar.

76 Ibid., 4.

77 Daud Qustantin al-Khuri, “Ila Kul Homsi,” Homs, 17 March 1923, 1–2.

78 Jamʿiyyat al-Rabita al-Adabiyya, Aʿmal Jamʿiyyat al-Rabita al-Adabiyya, 4.

79 Asʿad, “al-Aytam,” Homs, 14 July 1924, 2.

80 Jamʿiyyat al-Rabita al-Adabiyya, Aʿmal Jamʿiyyat al-Rabita al-Adabiyya, 4.

81 Fattuh, “Daud Qustantin al-Khuri,” Shumuʿ fi al-Dabab, 19–20.

82 ʿIsa Asʿad, “Baʿd al-Muhajira?,” Homs, 1 November 1922, 1–2.

83 Salwa Salama Atlas, “al-Tifl al-Baki,” al-Karma, January 1927, 22–24.

84 Kasheh (cache) refers to the pack carried by itinerant peddlers. Naff, Becoming American, 131–32.

85 In March 1927, mankūbīn likely referred to victims of the French suppression of the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925–27. Philanthropic groups abroad sent both funds and manpower to Syria to assist those affected. See Bailony, Reem, “Transnationalism and the Syrian Migrant Public: The Case of the 1925 Syrian Revolt,” Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies 1 (2013): 829CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

86 Salwa Salama Atlas, “al-Tifl al-Baki,” al-Karma, March 1927, 33–35.

87 ʿAtallah, Yawmiyyat Mutran Homs, 15–16.

88 Abu-Manneh, Butrus, “The Christians between Ottomanism and Syrian Nationalism: The Ideas of Butrus al-Bustani,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 11 (1980): 294Google Scholar.

89 Jurj Atlas, “al-Shab al-Hadith wa-Mukammilatuhu,” al-Karma, October 1914, 258–59.

90 Nasir, Rafful, Tarikh Kulliyyat Homs al-Wataniyya al-Injiliyya: Mundhu Nashaʾtiha 1901–1928 (Homs: Lajnat Kulliyyat Homs al-Wataniyya, 1928), 13Google Scholar.

91 Hanna Khabbaz, “Kulliyyat Homs al-Wataniyya,” Homs, 25 June 1922, 7.

92 Khabbaz, Hanna, Manatiq al-Nufudh wa-Mamlakat al-ʿIlm al-Khalida (São Paulo: Matbaʿat al-Raʿid wa-l-Nadi al-Homsi, 1922), 10Google Scholar.

93 Ibid., 6–7, 12.

94 Ibid., 12.

95 Hanna Khabbaz, “Fi ʿAlam al-Tarikh: al-Rabita al-Ijtimaʿiyya,” Jada al-Rishad, January 1923, 20–23.

96 Khabbaz, “Kulliyyat Homs al-Wataniyya,” Homs, 25 June 1922, 7.

97 Jamʿiyyat al-Rabita al-Adabiyya, Aʿmal Jamʿiyyat al-Rabita al-Adabiyya, 5, 19.

98 Al-Nadi al-Homsi, al-Nadi al-Homsi, 29.

99 Al-Nadi al-Homsi member Nazir Zaytun purchased the paper from ʿAtieh in 1924. Asʿad, Tarikh Homs, 529.

100 An important personality in São Paulo's al-Hizb al-Watani al-Suri, Jubran Bunduqi later became a founding member of al-Hizb al-Qawmi al-Ijtimaʿi al-Suri. Antun Saʿadih, al-Athar al-Kamila: al-Risaʾil, al-Juzʾ al-Awwal (Beirut: ʿUmdat al-Thaqafa, 1978), 7.

101 Daud Qustantin al-Khuri, “Sada al-Mahjar: al-Nadi al-Homsi,” Homs, 28 April 1923, 4–5.

102 Ibid., 5.

103 Gorky, Maxim, Ayna Allah, aw, Iʿtiraf ibn al-Shaʿb: Taʾammulat Falsafiyya fi al-Hayat Masbuka fi Qalib Qissa, trans. Nazir Zaytun (São Paulo: Matbaʿat Fatat Lubnan, 1934)Google Scholar.

104 Shakkur, Rashid, al-Sharq wa-l-Gharb (São Paulo: Dar al-Tibaʿa wa-l-Nashr al-ʿArabiyya, 1932), 12Google Scholar.

105 Al-Nadi al-Homsi, al-Nadi al-Homsi, 17–18.

106 On al-ʿUsba al-Andalusiyya, see ʿUmar Muhammad Duqaq, Shuʿaraʾ al-ʿUsba al-Andalusiyya fi al-Mahjar al-Amriki al-Janubi (al-Maktaba al-Islamiyya al-Jabaliyya, 1966).

107 Atlas, “al-Shab al-Hadith,” 258–59.

108 Wilson Jacob argues that both terms (al-riyāḍa al-jasadiyya and al-riyāḍa al-badaniyya) were coined in the Syrian press in Egypt in the 1890s amid scientific theories analogizing strong male bodies with self-reliance, morality, and sovereignty. Working Out Egypt, 77–79.

109 Atlas, “al-Shab al-Hadith,” 260.

110 Julio Atlas, “Bayt al-Jaliyya,” al-Karma, April 1932, 42.

111 Julio Atlas and Faris Dabaghi, “al-Riyada: Minni illi, al-Tarikh Yaʿad Nafsihi,” al-Karma, July 1931, 54; Daud Qustantin al-Khuri, “Ila al-Nadi al-Homsi iyyaha al-Suri al-Adib,” al-Karma, July 1927, 5–8.

112 Julio Atlas, “Bayt al-Jaliyya,” al-Karma, April 1932, 42.

113 Greiber, Betty Loeb, Maluf, Lina Saigh, and Mattar, Vera Cattini, “Lily Saigh Hachem e Emelie Saigh Calfet,” in Memórias da imigraçao: libaneses e sírios em são paulo (São Paulo: Discurso Editorial, 1998), 5051Google Scholar.

114 Grieber, Maluf, and Mattar, “Lily Saigh Hachem,” 39, 50.

115 Atlas and Dabaghi, “al-Riyada,” al-Karma, July 1931, 53.

116 Saʿadih, al-Athar al-Kamila, 2–4.

117 Julio Atlas, “Raʾis al-Nadi al-Riyadi al-Suri wa-Hadithuhu ila al-Karma,” al-Karma, August 1931, 29.

118 Nasim Khayrallah, “al-Jaliyya al-ʿArabiyya fi al-Chile: ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Jizawi,” al-Islah, 17 March 1929, 4.

119 Julio Atlas, “al-Batal ʿAbd al-Rahman wa-Hadithuhu ila al-Karma,” al-Karma, July 1931, 41.

120 Ibid., 42–3.

121 Ibid., 44.

122 Rashid al-Khuri, “Ma hiya al-Riyada?,” al-Karma, September 1931, 18–20.

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