Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Brazil Initiative

Home on Both Sides of the Border: Muslim Diasporas across South American Frontiers, 1950-2010

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

6:00pm – 7:30pm

Kim Koo Library, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street

Generally, people immigrate to a certain country where they experience different levels of adaptation and integration within their new host country. There are few places in the world where this process of de-socialization and re-socialization of immigrants simultaneously takes place in more than one host state. “Home on both sides of the Border” is a postdoctoral socio-historical and comparative study that examines the additional and particular challenges that Muslim immigrants have faced in international trans-border cities across the Southern Cone of Latin America in recent decades.

The research consists of a two-part comparative study. The first examines the Muslim-Lebanese community living in the “Triple Frontier” region of the cities of Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil), and two other, lesser-known, concentrations of Lebanese in adjacent cities along the Brazil-Paraguay and Paraguay-Argentina borders: Ponta Porã-P. J. Caballero, and Encarnación-Posadas, respectively. The second part of the study compares these three Muslim-Lebanese communities with Muslim-Palestinian communities who have inhabited three pairs of cities across Uruguayan-Brazilian border (Artigas-Quaraí/Chuy-Chui/Rivera-Santana do Livremento), which share no more than a street as an international border.

Such a study promotes a trans-regional, multidisciplinary and analytically rigorous focus on the integration strategies of immigrants in their host societies while engaging transnational interactions with homeland societies. Drawing upon what Elmaleh calls “dual transnational identities,” Elmaleh shows how Muslims and their descendants in these trans-border cities have managed to reconcile two sets of transnational identities: a) The transatlantic identity, based on the complex relationship of origin and destination, and b) the local identity which incorporates constant negotiation with the two discrete political, judicial, and cultural spheres in which they live — on both sides of an international border.

Omri Elmaleh completed his B.A. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University for his M.A. and doctoral studies. Currently Elmaleh is a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow affiliated with the History Department at Brown University. He is also a non-resident associate fellow at the Princeton University’s Center for Migration and Development. In the 2023-2023 academic year Elmaleh will work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Weatherhead Center for International affairs at Harvard University. His scholarly interests lie at the intersection of ethnicity, diaspora, transnationalism of Middle Easterners diasporas (Christians, Muslims and Jews) across Latin American and their return migration patterns. Inspired by recent trends of Global History and within the developing Latin America-Middle East South-South discourse, Elmaleh is devoted to the circulation of human, artifact, ideas and even animals between these two edges of the Global South.