Politique des races: The Racialization of Lebanese Syrian Migrants in French West Africa

Dahlia El Zein, University of Pennsylvania

 

Lebanon and Syria are often excluded from discussions of French empire and race. Because they are firmly seen as belonging in the “Middle East,” they invite comparisons with Turkey, Egypt, and the Gulf rather than with France’s West African colonies. This has limited our understanding of racial dynamics in the Levant despite the large Lebanese diaspora in West Africa and the significant French involvement in Lebanon for over a century.

As others in this collection have argued, race as a system of social differentiation under French colonialism was not a fixed category, but fluid, moving across time and space.[1] The growing presence of Lebanese Syrian migrants (from today’s Lebanon but who in the pre-independence era referred to themselves this way) in colonial French West Africa (1895–1958) during French mandate rule in the Levant (1920–1946) offers one of the clearest examples. The Levantine community in West Africa has frequently been studied for its economic prowess, as an entrepreneurial trader class that leveraged the colonial economy and familial kinship networks to gain enormous profits and upward mobility.[2] Lebanese migrants in the global mahjar (diaspora) have also been given significant attention in the histories of racial identity formation, especially in the United States and Latin America.[3] In West Africa, however, with a few notable exceptions the Lebanese diaspora has largely been left out of the histories of race-making under French colonialism.

The Lebanese diaspora experience has had enduring legacies not only in West Africa, but also in Lebanon.[4]While there is a growing body of research exploring the impact of colonialism on gender and sectarianism in the region, studies on race during the colonial period in the Levant remain limited.[5] The Kafala system, introduced to Lebanon from the Gulf in the 1970s, is rightly associated with the harsh treatment of African and Asian migrant workers. It is often linked to the historical antecedents of slavery in the region, leading to a perceived linear progression from medieval slavery in the Arab-Islamic world to the present day. This view conceals how the colonial context shaped modern ideas of race that emerged in Lebanon.

In my research on the historical Lebanese Syrian diasporic community in West Africa, I trace the genealogies of racial hierarchies under French colonialism, which I argue created the foundation for the racial hierarchies that exist in Lebanon today. The Lebanese community in West Africa, in conjunction with the expansion of the global Lebanese mahjar, is the linchpin in the racial equation. This becomes especially salient if we compare the racial positionality of Lebanese Shi’is and Maronites in French West Africa and Lebanon, tracing how their status and position transformed from Lebanon to West Africa under a framework of traveling race and empire, anchored in a French colonial politique des races.

In Lebanon, Maronite Christians generally received economic and political preference under the French colonial order while Lebanese Shi’is were marginalized and excluded from educational opportunities, economic growth, and social services.[6] In Africa, Lebanese Shi’is could overcome these barriers that hindered their upward mobility at home and transcend sectarian difference to achieve equal footing with other Lebanese Syrian migrants, at least in terms of access to the colonial economy. Lebanese Shi’is were able to equally access services otherwise deemed exclusionary in their homeland. Through the Compagnie Française de l’Afrique Occidentale, which oversaw most of the trade in French West Africa, Lebanese Syrians gained access to loans from European banks over their West African counterparts, providing them with seed capital and enabling them to offer loans to local Africans at high interest rates.[7]  The “whiteness” of Lebanese migrants eclipsed religious identity and became the singular marker of their existence alongside West Africans, shifting Shi’is from colonized to colonizer while erasing the “special” privileges and status Christians enjoyed in Lebanon under French colonial rule.[8] West Africa became the great equalizer and solidified Lebanese self-perception of themselves as “white” vis-à-vis the global mahjar, feeding that loop back to Lebanon.

 Migration to West Africa

For Lebanese Syrian migrants the technologies of steam and print, which became more affordable in the first decades of the twentieth century, allowed for new economic opportunities and the circulation of people and ideas. Migration increased among people living under unjust rule and dire economic circumstances such as Lebanese Syrians under Ottoman and then French rule. With the conclusion of World War I and the subsequent fall of the Ottoman Empire, France gained new mandatory territories in the Arab world through a secret negotiation with Britain, the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916). Greater Syria, including Mount Lebanon, became French mandates while British rule extended to Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine.[9] The famine and subsequent widespread disease that affected the Greater Syria region in World War I was especially dire in Lebanon.[10] French colonial rule also facilitated travel within and between imperial polities with the right to free movement within metropolitan France and its empire enshrined under the mandate.[11] With the opportunities provided by the mandate, and on the heels of the famine, thousands of Lebanese Syrians migrated to Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF) (1895–1958) in the 1920s and 1930s. While overall migration to other parts of the diaspora such as the United States and Latin America from Greater Syria declined in the interwar years because of the Great Depression and impact of the war, it was during this time that migration peaked in French West Africa. Many of these migrants became merchants, traders, and shopkeepers moving between the towns and cities of AOF, some in colonial capitals like Dakar and Conakry, others in interior trading hubs like Kaolack and Kankan.[12]

Many migrants had come to believe immigration to America was the epitome of success and progress, while Africa was an “unwanted stepchild.”[13] In a 1932 edition of the Shi’i monthly periodical Al-‘Irfan, Ali Abdallah Murouwwa warns readers, “Beware getting on that rough ship and throwing yourselves away to the darkcontinent” (al-qara al-sawdaa), and further warns, “Africa is the land of stubbornness and misery. Your country is the comfortable one.”[14] “The dark continent” denotes a long colonial history popularized by Welsh travel writer Henry Morton Stanley as a derogatory term to refer to an “untamed” Africa.[15] Al-‘Irfan and several other Arabic periodicals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century translated several articles by Europeans and Americans about their “adventures” in Africa and observations of African cultures, an indication that European racial ideas of Africa had filtered into Arab literary circles.[16] While slavery in the Middle East prior to the eighteenth century was not racialized in the same way as in the Atlantic world and included Circassians and Christians from European and Balkan Ottoman lands, it became increasingly more racialized during the nineteenth century as the bulk of the slave trade shifted to the Nile Valley. By the late nineteenth century, the relationship between anti-Blackness and slavery solidified in the Mediterranean in a way it had not previously.[17]

To counter the “undesirability” of Africa as a migration destination, Lebanese Syrians popularized a myth about the accidental nature of their arrival in West Africa to justify their presence. It goes something like this: These migrants were headed to the United States or Latin America but ended up in West Africa after failing health exams or running out of money. Many ships would also make a stop in Dakar or St. Louis before continuing the transatlantic journey and some early migrants even believed they had arrived to America.[18] The myth of accidental arrival became supplanted with another story of ceremonious arrival: “Then the news arrived to Marseille that the Lebanese migrants were showered with gold upon their arrival and that’s why they stayed in Africa and didn’t continue to the United States.”[19]

Whether a “land of riches,” or “the dark continent,” Lebanese Syrian migration to West Africa steadily increased. In 1892 there were only a few Lebanese Syrian migrants in AOF, in 1897 about 30 and by 1900 their numbers reached 400.[20] The second wave of migrants in the 1910s and through the interwar years were overwhelmingly Lebanese Shi’is from Jabal ‘Amil, estimates claim about 75 to 95 percent.[21] By 1938, the number had grown to over 10,000, with 2,800 in Senegal and 1,600 in Dakar and by 1960, there were 19,277 Lebanese migrants in French West Africa.[22]

Politique des races

The infamous French “politique des races” of the late nineteenth century spelled out a detailed, inconsistent, contextually specific, and geographically contingent racial taxonomy in all its colonies, which was intended to divide and conquer native populations. (See Solène Brun’s essay in this collection for a French sociology of race that counters critiques that race is an American import.) The French mandate of Lebanon was no exception. Shi’is were racialized as a racial class of their own, as were Maronites. Maronites became Phoenicians, indigenous to Lebanon, while Muslims, including Druze, were assigned a narrative as outsiders, “Arab invaders.” Shi’is were singled out as different, darker, and foreign to the land.

Inspired by their experience in Morocco in separating the Tamazight population from the Arabs, the French colonial government applied the same principal to separating the Christian population of Lebanon from the Muslims, aiming to highlight Lebanon’s inherent Christianity.[23] In Mauritania, French colonial authorities pursued the opposite policy to its approach in the Maghreb countries, privileging the Arab population over Black Mauritanians, which Baba Adou writes about in this collection.

The invention of a “Phoenician race” was used by the French “to justify dividing ‘Greater Lebanon’ from the rest of the Syrian mandate” and giving preference to Maronite Christians.[24] Elise Burton’s study of genetics and race science in the Middle East in the early twentieth century illuminates how European Orientalists “anointed Egyptian Copts and Lebanese Maronites as living representatives of Pharaonic Egyptians and Phoenicians offering a racial justification for the special prestige these Christians enjoyed under British and French imperial influence.”[25] As Lebanese Christians leaned into this Phoenician identity, becoming Phoenician meant distancing Lebanon from the Arab-Islamic narrative of its neighbor Syria, and positioning it firmly within Western Civilization. Under the French mandate, when negotiations over the national identity of a new Lebanon began to emerge, the Maronite “prototype” of Phoenician ancestry fashioned with “European sensibilities” became the baseline for other minority groups in Lebanon to emulate.[26] In the early twentieth century, the Maronite and Lebanese Christian population had already undergone a mass migration to the Americas and become financially successful as traders, entrepreneurs, and businessmen. Thus, the mythology of the Lebanese migrant who was a natural trader like their Phoenician ancestors, a seafaring trade people, was doubly reinforced.

Lebanese Shi’is (and Kurds) in contrast were excluded from this Phoenician ancestry and claims to indigeneity. In Lebanon, Shi’is were (and remain) referred to by other Lebanese with the degrading term metwali. French physician and Egyptologist, Louis Lortet wrote of the “ethnological traits” of the Shi’a, proclaiming that the “Métoualis are very different” from the Druze and the Maronites, and are a race “closer to the Mongols.” He goes on to affirm that “the color of the skin is a rather dark brown, much more accentuated than among the neighboring populations, whose color is often as pale as that of the French of the south.” Lortet makes clear that the Shi’is were foreign outsiders to Lebanon, proclaiming, “I believe that one can boldly affirm that the Métoualis probably arrived in the thirteenth century.”[27]

It can be difficult to communicate how offensive the term metwali is to the Lebanese Shi’i community because the direct meaning of the word is not necessarily offensive. Deriving from the word mawali, meaning followers of the wali (leader or ruler), the term historically referred to non-Arab converts to Islam under the Ummayads especially, who were considered second class citizens to Arab Muslims. This further evolved to matawala as in met-waly-an-li-ali (مت ولياً لعلي) meaning those who follow Ali (Imam Ali bin Abi Talib) to refer to Shi’is. Metwalithen became a wholesale term to refer to Lebanese Shi’is and carries derogatory connotations of backwardness, filth, misery, and chaos.[28] Even the historiographical narrative about Shi’is in Lebanon often assumed their disinterest, portraying them as politically passive until they were awakened by figures like Musa Sadr in the 1960s and the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. Although recent scholarship by Max Weiss and Tamara Chalabi challenges this narrative, it still prevails in many circles.[29]

In Lebanon, Shi’is would always be marked by difference from other Lebanese. However, in West Africa, among a flattened perception of Black Africans, Shi’is could become “Phoenician” and “white.” Furthermore, the sectarian treatment that French colonial racial policy upheld in Lebanon became irrelevant in West Africa as Lebanese traders became the preferred colonial middlemen, traitants (Muslim or Christian), lauded for their adaptability to the African diet and lifestyle (unlike the French who were “unfit” for such harshness).[30]

West Africa as Racial Equalizer

The inconsistency of treatment towards Lebanese Syrian migrants in West Africa by French colons precluded sect. They were en masse either deemed as a threat or as a disease, and en masse deemed more worthy of European loans over their African counterparts. While Maronites could be considered white in Lebanon, in West Africa, along with other Lebanese migrants, they were not quite blanches. Even though official French colonial documents classified Lebanese Syrians as belonging to “les races blanches” (the white races), they remained a colonized class. [31] Between 1910 and 1960, French authorities intermittently attempted to restrict Lebanese Syrian migration to AOF, including both Muslims and Christians.[32]

The self-racialization of Eastern Mediterranean migrants as white is well-documented by scholars. In this period, Lebanese Syrian migrants in the United States, Australia, and South Africa were all involved in court cases claiming whiteness.[33] Many of the cases brought forth were by Maronite Christians arguing that as Christians they were more European than Arab. Claiming whiteness was not unique to Maronites but was also performed by Muslim Arabs, Shi’is, and Sunnis. Because Lebanese Shi’is were (and remain) the majority migrant population in West Africa, unlike the diaspora in the Americas, which had a majority Christian population, West Africa became a racial equalizer for Lebanese Syrian migrants, allowing Shi’is otherwise deemed a fifth column in their homeland to be considered as white as any other Lebanese Syrian migrants in the global mahjar.

Scholars have long studied the racial anxieties of Europeans around their colonies. The theoretical ground is well-trodden when it comes to who was considered worthy to incorporate into the colonies according to invented European standards of respectability, domesticity, and civility. We are on less established ground when considering how these ideas of respectability mapped onto divisions between colonized peoples. For example, Lebanese travel books and periodicals from this period frequently used the degrading term abeed to refer to Black African men, women, and children.[34] Abeed is a hurtful slur meaning “enslaved.” A growing scholarly literature has been dissecting the usage of this deeply loaded insult in the Arabic-speaking world.[35]

The use of this derogatory word by Lebanese Syrians of various classes and sects reflects how a colonial economy that depended on African labor saw African men and women primarily as bodies to be exploited and verbally inscribed their subservience as a class of people. This brazen racializing of Africans depicted as bodies of labor to serve Lebanese Syrian households highlights the community’s own racial insecurities. Primarily because in Lebanon, prior to the civil war and the introduction of the Kafala system, domestic work was usually taken up by young Shi’i or Kurdish girls.[36] By tracing the genealogies of Lebanese racialization in West Africa, we can begin to understand the origins of the harsh racialization of migrant domestic labor in Lebanon today.

As Hilary Jones aptly explains, rather than understanding Lebanese racialization of Africans as “moments of racism” or calling out “racist people,” “instead we must consider the postcolonial geographies of racialization and racial power.”[37] The throughline of this collection is to uncover the contextual, unreliable, incoherent, historically contingent framework of traveling notions of race and empire that existed under French colonial rule and its lasting legacies. Only by tracing these specificities of the genealogies of racialization as it moved under French colonial rule can we even begin to imagine undoing them.

Conclusion

The history of the Lebanese diaspora in West Africa is a history of racialization under empire. Lebanese Shi’is in West Africa, in stark relief to a fixed, frozen racialization of Black Africans, could be considered white by French colonial authorities. Conversely, Lebanese Christians lost the special status they were granted in Lebanon under French politique des races.

Today, the Lebanese of West Africa are fifth and sixth generation, and although they only number around 25,000–30,000 residents in Senegal, they are a highly visible minority whose business establishments are very prominent in the Dakar Plateau area.[38] The ones I spoke to in Dakar, refer to themselves as Sénégalo-libanais. They scoff at the idea of sect so present in their original homeland, they speak Wolof and French fluently, and many have never been to Lebanon. Many Senegalese I spoke to, however, still see this group as “aloof and separate,” the exact words used by Emmanuel Akyeampong to describe the Lebanese of Ghana.[39]

During the decolonization period on the African continent that led to the birth of newly independent post-colonial African nation-states, the Lebanese were heavily targeted for their involvement in the colonial economy, for their successes on the backs of locals, and for their indifference to Africans themselves. The contentious position that Lebanese occupied in West Africa as colonial “middlemen” was akin to South Asians in East Africa. Unlike their South Asian counterparts, the Lebanese were never officially expelled from Africa.[40] Some Lebanese left voluntarily post-independence, but in the era of mass expulsions on the African continent (see Adou’s piece here about the expulsion of Haalpulaars from Mauritania to Senegal and Mali), the Lebanese, perhaps surprisingly, remained unscathed—a promising question for future research.

[1] My understanding of race as a system of social differentiation is informed by the works of Stuart Hall who draws on the work of W. E. B. Du Bois. Stuart Hall, The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).

[2] See for example: Julien Charnay, “Les Syro-Libanais en A.O.F. des années 1880-à 1939,” Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée, no. 142 (2017); Boutros Labaki, “L’émigration libanaise en Afrique occidentale sub-saharienne,” Revue européenne des migrations internationals 9, no. 2 (1993); Rita Cruise-Brian, “Lebanese Entrepreneurs in Senegal: Economic Integration and the Politics of Protection,” Cahiers d’études africaines, 15, no. 57 (1975): 95–115; and R. Bayly Winder, “The Lebanese in West Africa,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 4, no. 3 (1962): 296–333.

[3] See for example: Sarah Gualtieri, M. A., Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009); John Tofik Karam, Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008); José D. Najar,Transimperial Anxieties: The Making and Unmaking of Arab Ottomans in São Paulo, Brazil, 1850–1940 (Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, 2023); and Camila Pastor, The Mexican Mahjar: Transnational Maronites, Jews, and Arabs under the French Mandate (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017).

[4] Notable exceptions include, Andrew Arsan, Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) and Mara Leichtman, Shiʻi Cosmopolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015).

[5] Elizabeth Thompson is an exception to this, her book: Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000) talks about race as well as gender. For recent work on gender and sect in the Levant, see Maya Mikdashi, Sextarianism: Sovereignty, Secularism, and the State in Lebanon (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2022).

[6] See for example: Fouad Ajami, The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986); Tamara Chalabi, The Shiʻis of Jabal ʻAmil and the New Lebanon: Community and Nation Sate, 1918–1943 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Roschanack Shaery-Eisenlohr, Shiite Lebanon: Transnational Religion and the Making of National Identities (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008); Max Weiss, In the Shadow of Sectarianism: Law, Shi’ism, and the Making of Modern Lebanon(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Linda Sayed, “Sectarian Homes: The Making of Shi‘i Families and Citizens Under the French Mandate, 1918–1943,” PhD Diss (Columbia University, 2013).

[7] See Arsan, Interlopers of Empire, 129, Cruise-Brian, “Lebanese Entrepreneurs in Senegal,” 100, and Winder, “The Lebanese in West Africa,” 303.

[8] For more on this, see my forthcoming article, Dahlia El Zein, “From Shi’a to White: Race and Colonialism in Kamel Murouwwa’s Nahnu Fi Ifriqiya,” Mashriq & Mahjar: The Journal for Middle Eastern and North African Migration 12, no. 1 (Winter 2025).

[9] For more on the French Mandate, see Yusuf Al-Hakim, Suriya wa al-intidab al-faransi (Beirut: Dar al-Nahar, 1983); Philip S. Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920–1945 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987); Idir Ouahes, Syria and Lebanon Under the French Mandate: Cultural Imperialism and the Workings of Empire (London: I.B. Tauris, 2018).

[10] Linda. S Schilcher, “The Famine of 1915– 1918 in Greater Syria,” in John Spagnolo, ed., Problems of the Middle East in Historical Perspective (Oxford, 1992).

[11] Arsan, Interlopers of Empire, 101.

[12] Arsan, Interlopers of Empire, 5–6 and 41–42; Charnay, “Les Syro-Libanais en A.O.F. des années 1880-à 1939”; and Labaki, “L’émigration libanaise en Afrique occidentale sub-saharienne.”

[13] Sarah Gualtieri, Arab Routes: Pathways to Syrian California (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019).

[14] ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Murouwwa, “Kalimat muhajir ‘an Ifriqiyya,Al-‘Irfan (1931): 530–31.

[15] Henry M. Stanley, Through the Dark Continent (London: Sampson Low, 1890).

[16] For example, Martin Johnson, translated by Adeeb Farhat, “Bayna akalat luhum al-bashar,” Al-‘Irfan(1922–23): 361. For more on the influence of European colonial and racial ideas, see Marwa Elshakry, Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860–1950 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013) and Omina Elshakry, The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

[17] There are many excellent studies about the experience of African enslavement in the Middle East. See for example Ahmed Alawad Sikainga, Slaves into Workers: Emancipation and Labor in Colonial Sudan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996); Ehud Toledano, As If Silent and Absent: Bonds of Enslavement in the Islamic Middle East (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008); and Terrance Walz and Kenneth M Cuno (eds). Race and Slavery in the Middle East: Histories of Trans-Saharan Africans in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Mediterranean (Cairo & New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2010).

[18] Charles Issawi, “The Historical Background of Lebanese Emigration, 1800–1914,” in Albert Hourani and Nadim Shehadi (eds), The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration (London: Centre for Lebanese Studies in association with I.B. Tauris, 1992): 30.

[19] Kamel Murouwwa, Nahnu fi Ifriqiya: al-Hijra al-Lubnaniyya al-Suriyya ila Ifriqiya al-Gharbiyya, Madiha, Hadiriha, Mustaqbaliha. (“We are in Africa: The Lebanese Syrian Migration to West Africa, its Past, Present, and Future”) (Beirut: Al-Makshuf, 1938): 192.

[20] Labaki, “L’émigration libanaise en Afrique occidentale sub-saharienne,” 91.

[21]Alhadji Bouba Nouhou, “Les Libano-Syriens au Sénégal. Trajectoires, accommodations et confessionnalisme,” Confluences Méditerranée, no. 83 (2012): 135–151. Arsan and Leichtman mention this as well.

[22] “Libanais emigres a l’etranger” 10T 827 Service historique de la Défense de l’armée de terre Vincennes, March 9, 1960.

[23] Chalabi, The Shiʻis of Jabal ʻAmil and the New Lebanon, 102. Asher S. Kaufman, Reviving Phoenicia: In Search of Identity in Lebanon (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004).

[24] Elise Burton, Genetic Crossroads: The Middle East and the Science of Human Heredity (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2021): 39–40.

[25] Burton, Genetic Crossroads, 38.

[26] Chalabi, The Shiʻis of Jabal ʻAmil and the New Lebanon, 155, and Ghenwa Hayek, “‘Carrying Africa,’ Becoming Lebanese: Diasporic Mildness in Lebanese Fiction,” in Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’ 2: Diaspora, Memory and Intimacy [online], edited by Sarah Barbour, Thomas Lacroix, David Howard, and Judith Misrahi-Barak (Montpellier: Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2015). Available on the Internet: http://books.openedition.org/pulm/9228.

[27] Lois Lortet, La Syrie D’adjourd’hui: Voyages Dans La Phénicie, Le Liban, Et La Judée, 1875–1880 (Paris: Hachette et cie, 1884): 116. First found in Max Weiss, “Institutionalizing Sectarianism: Law, Religious Culture, and the Remaking of Shi’i Lebanon, 1920–1947” (PhD Diss., Stanford University, 2007): 57.

[28] For an Arabic explainer of the term see: https://www.almodon.com/politics/2022/3/17/بين-دولار-الشيعة-وليرة-المتاولة

[29] See Chalabi, The Shiʻis of Jabal ʻAmil and Weiss, In the Shadow of Sectarianism.

[30] Laurence Marfaing and Mariam Sow, Les Operateurs Economiques au Senegal: Entre le Formel et l’Informel (1930–1996) (Paris: Karthala, 1999).

[31] “Note on Lebanese in Dakar,” DE 2009 PA 35 50 Service historique de la Défense de l’armée de terre Vincennes. No date but other documents in the box from 1939–1945.

[32] Murouwwa, Nahnu fi Ifriqiya, 236–237.

[33] For the US context see Gualtieri, Between Arab and White; for Australian context see Ghassan Hage, “Maronite White Self-Racialisation as Identity fetishism: Capitalism and the Experience of Colonial Whiteness,” in Karim Murji and John Solomos (eds), Racialization: Studies in Theory and Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); and for South African context, see Cecile Yazbek, “Albinos in the Laager* – Being Lebanese in South Africa,” Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies NC State University, June 21, 2016.

[34] Details on this in my forthcoming article referenced above, El Zein, “From Shi’a to White.”

[35] Eve Troutt Powell, Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Empire (Redwood City: Stanford University Press, 2013): 1–6.

[36] Sumayya Kassamali, “Understanding Race and Migrant Domestic Labor in Lebanon,” Middle East Report Online, July 13, 2021, and “The Kafala System as Racialized Servitude,” POMEPS Studies 44, Racial Formations in Africa and the Middle East: A Transregional Approach (September 2021).

[37] Hilary Jones and Caroline Faria, “A Darling of the Beauty Trade: Race, Care, and the Lebanese Styling of Synthetic Hair,” Cultural Geographies 27, no. 1 (2020): 92.

[38] Estimates according to the Lebanese embassy in Dakar.

[39] Emmanuel K. Akyeampong, “Race, Identity and Citizenship in Black Africa: The Case of the Lebanese in Ghana,” Africa 76, no. 3 (2006): 297–323.

[40] Meghan Garrity, “Introducing the Government-Sponsored Mass Expulsion Dataset,” Journal of Peace Research 59, no. 5 (2022): 767–776.