We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Arab Detroit

From Margin to Mainstream

Edited by Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock

Publication Year: 2000

Metropolitan Detroit is home to one of the largest, most diverse Arab communities outside the Middle East, yet the complex world Arabic-speaking immigrants have created there is barely visible on the landscape of ethnic America. In this volume, Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock bring together the work of twenty-five contributors to create a richly detailed portrait of Arab Detroit. The book goes behind the bulletproof glass in Iraqi Chaldean liquor stores. It explores the role of women in a Sunni mosque and the place of nationalist politics in a Coptic church. It follows the careers of wedding singers, Arabic calligraphers,restaurant owners, and pastry chefs. It examines the agendas of Shia Muslim activists and Washington-based lobbyists and looks at the intimate politics of marriage, family honor, and adolescent rebellion. Memoirs and poems by Lebanese, Chaldean, Yemeni, and Palestinian writers anchor the book in personal experience, while over fifty photographs provide a backdrop of vivid, often unexpected, images. In their efforts to represent an ethnic/immigrant community that is flourishing on the margins of pluralist discourse, the contributors to this book break new ground in the study of identity politics, transnationalism, and diaspora cultures.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Great Lakes Books Series


pdf iconDownload PDF (812.9 KB)
pp. 1-4


pdf iconDownload PDF (85.4 KB)
p. 5-5


pdf iconDownload PDF (122.1 KB)
p. 6-6


pdf iconDownload PDF (170.1 KB)
pp. 7-10

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (239.6 KB)
pp. 9-10

THIS BOOK IS the culmination of five years of research, exhibition, collaboration, and political effort. It began in 1994 as an ambitious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Humanities Project, Creating a New Arab World: A Century in the Life of the Arab Community in Detroit. The project was sponsored by the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social...


pdf iconDownload PDF (206.1 KB)
pp. 11-12

read more

On Margins and Mainstreams

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.2 MB)
pp. 15-36

THIS IS A book about Arabs in Detroit, and like most contemporary attempts to portray immigrant and ethnic communities in America, it is a self-conscious exercise in cultural representation. We realize that Arab Detroit's size (roughly two hundred thousand strong), its age (over a century old), and its economic and cultural prominence (measured in thousands of businesses...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (478.7 KB)
pp. 37-40


read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (512.7 KB)
pp. 39-44

ARAB DETROIT IS a patchwork of national, religious, and village groups who, in the ordinary run of events, keep very much to themselves. Lebanese Shia in Dearborn have little contact with Palestinian Christians in Livonia: the two groups do not socialize together, they rarely intermarry, and their Arabic dialects are different enough to cause confusion. Yet one could...

8 Houses from the Birthplace of Henry Ford

pdf iconDownload PDF (214.5 KB)
pp. 45-48

read more

Building the Infrastructure of Arab American Identity in Detroit A Short History of ACCESS and the Community It Serve

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 49-60

IN APRIL 1997 the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) held its twenty-sixth annual dinner at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. In many ways the dinner was like any other fund-raising event for a community organization. There were speeches from prominent figures about the importance of activism, expressions of appreciation from ACCESS leaders for consistent corporate support, and testimonials about the positive...

read more

A Demographic Portrait of Arab Detroit

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.8 MB)
pp. 61-92

HENRY FORD AND the auto industry; Barry Gordy and Motown Records; the 1967 riots and "Devil's Night." Alongside these popular symbols, which have influenced national perceptions of Detroit, is the new image of Detroit as home to the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East. Although this claim may be exaggerated, since the exact number of Arabs in any...


pdf iconDownload PDF (662.3 KB)
pp. 93-96

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (301.5 KB)
pp. 95-98

THE INDUSTRIAL BOOM was formative for Arab Detroit and its image.Along with store ownership and peddling, blue-collar work has characterized Arab Detroit through much of its history. A steady streamof immigrants has kept these ethnic specializations alive. Lebanese,Syrian, and Palestinian peddlers graduated into store ownership and...

You Only Exist Inside Me

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.5 KB)
pp. 99-100

In the Tenth Year of War

pdf iconDownload PDF (80.9 KB)
pp. 101-102

read more

Dumb like a Fox

pdf iconDownload PDF (339.1 KB)
pp. 103-106

It wasn't my real dad. It was my stepdad. My [biological] dad had come here in 1917 running from the Ottoman Empire, joined the army,went back to France, fought in World War I, and became an American citizen. By age three, my dad died. I was about three, three and a half.My mother remarried years later, and the man that raised me, his...

read more

Growing up in Detroit An Immigrant Grocer's Daughter

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.8 MB)
pp. 107-148

...other city in which I have lived since has so legitimate a claim on my reminiscences. I was not born in it. I was not yet an adolescent when I was sent to live in it with my half sister, Nazha, and her husband, Daher Haney. It was that era in that city where the Naffs maturedas a family—where my sister, my three brothers, and I developed...


pdf iconDownload PDF (129.2 KB)
pp. 149-150

read more

Behind the Bulletproof Glass Iraqi Chaldean Store Ownership in Metropolitan Detroit

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.6 MB)
pp. 151-178

ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS PERHAPS the most important factor in determining whether immigrant groups achieve economic success in industrialized societies, including the United States (Evans 1989). Of course,"success" is not a quality limited to immigrant entrepreneurs, but by taking advantage of cultural resources and structural opportunities...

There I Am Again

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.3 KB)
pp. 179-180

read more

On the Road with Bob Peddling in the Early Sixties

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.2 MB)
pp. 181-196

THE BLUE AND white 1959 Ford Galaxy had been cruising on the OhioTurnpike for less than thirty minutes when Bob unexpectedly pulledoff at a service area. As the car slowed to a stop, Bob clutched his"wa'lek" ("boy" in Arabic). It was his way of maintaining a respectfuldistance from me and my four brothers. In a subconscious twist, we...


read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (497.1 KB)
pp. 199-202

IN ARAB DETROIT, the imagery of "margin and mainstream" is nowhere more apt, or more complicated, than in its application to religious life. At the most obvious level, Arab Detroit is composed of faiths and sects that are considered alien in America at large. Islam of any sort is marginalized in a country that defines itself, with careless disregard for millions of its own citizens, as Judeo-Christian. Shia Islam, more suspect still...

What They Did

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.3 KB)
pp. 203-204

read more

The American Journey of a Chaldean from Iraq

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 205-218

MY FATHER DISAPPEARED for three days when I was fifteen years old and living in Baghdad, Iraq, with my parents and my three younger brothers. We didn't know whether or not he was alive or what horrible things were being done to him. We could not inquire about where he was or report him to the police as missing for fear that we would...

read more

Egyptian Copts in Detroit Ethnic Community and Long-Distance Nationalism

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.6 MB)
pp. 219-240

MODERN EGYPT IS a nation in the sense meant by Anderson (1991,6-7). It is imagined because in a country of over sixty-three million people, most citizens are really strangers to each other. It is limited because it is finite in size and geographically defined. It is sovereign because of modern Enlightenment beliefs that pose freedom and national autonomy as political ideals...

read more

Finding the Straight Path A Conversation with Mohsen and Lila Amen about Faith, Life, and Family in Dearborn

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.3 MB)
pp. 241-278

DEARBORN, MICHIGAN, IS home to roughly twenty-five thousand Lebanese Americans. This population forms the nucleus of what is perhaps North America's largest, most highly concentrated Arab- Muslim community. As of 1998, there were at least eight mosques in the Dearborn area. These mosques are attended by Shia as well as Sunni Muslims, by third-generation...

read more

Arab Detroit's "American" Mosque

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.2 MB)
pp. 279-310

ONE FRIDAY IN 1976 a group of Muslims gathered on the doorstep of the Dix mosque (officially known as the Moslem Mosque) in the Southend of Dearborn. Finding the door locked, they forced their way in and proceeded to do what Muslims all over the world do every Friday at midday: perform Jumaa communal prayers. For this group of mostly immigrant,...


pdf iconDownload PDF (418.4 KB)
pp. 311-314

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (423.3 KB)
pp. 313-316

...tence to a century of political conflicts and wars in the Middle East,most of them caused or prolonged by the interventionist policiesof France, Britain, Russia, and the United States. In the second halfof the twentieth century, the dominant foreign power in the regionhas indisputably been the United States. Washington's Middle East...

read more

Aliya Hassan

pdf iconDownload PDF (482.8 KB)
pp. 317-318

ALIYA HASSAN WAS one of Arab Detroit's most effective leaders. Asexecutive director of ACCESS (1972-81), she built bridges between the first Arab immigrants to America, their children, and the newwaves of refugees and immigrants that crashed into Detroit in the1970s. Through her political and religious activism, Aliya shaped,...

Important Things to an Eight Year Old

pdf iconDownload PDF (131.9 KB)
pp. 319-320

read more

After Karbala Iraqi Refugees in Detroit

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 321-342

Clearly the people I saw were in big trouble. They were desperate.I would have to say though that it wasn't immediately clear to us,having newly arrived there, that the refugees were fleeing Iraqi government attacks. We helped people initially because they frankly looked like civilians to us. Despite the feeling of human misery we...

read more

Politics, Pragmatism, and the "Arab Vote" A Conversation with May

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.8 MB)
pp. 343-374

MAYA BERRY IMMIGRATED to Michigan in the early days of the Leba-nese civil war, when she was eight years old. She grew up in eastDearborn, where her family was among the first Lebanese to settle.Today, slightly more than twenty years later, this part of town is over-whelmingly Lebanese. Maya attended the University of Michigan in...

Status Refugee

pdf iconDownload PDF (93.1 KB)
pp. 373-374


pdf iconDownload PDF (457.1 KB)
pp. 375-378

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (374.5 KB)
pp. 377-380

AN UNDERCURRENT OF disquiet runs through the memoirs that follow. Much of the disquiet emanates from the struggle to reconcile, negotiate, and otherwise transcend the margin/mainstream distinction that casts a shadow over the lives of Arab Detroit. In everyday discourse this struggle is manifest in a nagging discomfort with self-referential...

read more

Daughter of America

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 381-390

MY PARENTS GREW up in the same village in Yemen. My father fell in love with my mother after watching her from a distance while she did her chores. He, being the handsomest young man in the village, be mother moved into his family home and shortly thereafter they food they had to eat came from what dairy products they could get...

read more

Coming Home

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 391-400

...in 1979, I was only five years old. We were forced to abandon our lavish high-rise apartment complex in Beirut because of the escalating desolate. The first sign of this devastation appeared to me as I watched my mother pack the last of our suitcases on her bed the night before crying instead of rejoicing like my brothers and me. We were, after...

read more

Becoming the Center of Mystery

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.1 MB)
pp. 403-425

I learned how to recite the Fatihah, the opening prayer of the Quran,before I memorized the words to the Star-Spangled Banner. In the basement of the house on Carlin Street, eight houses from the border between the Motor City and the hometown of Henry Ford, I sat beside my mother on a Borden's milk crate while she gutted and scaled fish...

read more

To Palestine and Back Quest for Place

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.2 MB)
pp. 425-462

...the Jordan Valley, I watched two Israeli military jets circle above,two silver triangles glistening against the pale summer sky. If they visiting, my life would be over. Having just turned nineteen, the about the futility of hiding under the fig tree. When the bombs and fiery napalm fell, I might as well have been hiding under the black...

read more

Hope, Figs, and a Place Called Home

pdf iconDownload PDF (958.7 KB)
pp. 463-470

IN THE BACKYARD of my grandparents' home, my family planted a fig fleshy leaves and buds that left my family praying for nothing short close to the ground before the first frost in the hope that it would visited my grandparents' former home there. Outside that three-room she grew from seed. It, too, never bore fruit or grew more than four...

read more

What's Not in a Name

pdf iconDownload PDF (881.2 KB)
pp. 471-480

Although I am married, I call myself Marilynn Rashid, "to keep my own name," I say. But, of course, it's only my father's name, so this partly defeats the purpose—the patriarchy can't be broken this way.It's small solace, a partial solution, no solution. So I should add my mother's name, Philipson (son of Philip?). But, of course, that wasn't...


pdf iconDownload PDF (560.9 KB)
pp. 481-484

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (444.6 KB)
pp. 483-486

...is something made in public spaces. Although scholars repeatedly try to explain this identity by examining what is Arab about it, we that create it. What is American about Arab identity in Detroit? First, it is portrayed as a kind of ethnic identity. Arab Detroit is not thought to be representative of American society at large, even...

read more

The Art and Artistry of Arab Detroit Changing Traditions in a New World

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.1 MB)
pp. 487-514

...honor bestowed on the state's outstanding folk artists by the Michgan State University Museum. Nadim was the first artist from Arab Detroit to receive such recognition from the mainstream. Like other Arab immigrant artists, Dlaikan is engaged in a constant negotiation between his own artistic vision and the expectations of highly diverse...

read more

Continuity and Adaptation in Arab American Foodways

pdf iconDownload PDF (6.9 MB)
pp. 515-550

...and very complex. One can think of this process as ethnogenesis, orthe creation of a new social group. Along with the development of anew ethnic group is a parallel development of a new subculture thatboth symbolizes the group's uniqueness to its members and marks offits social boundaries. The new subculture is created in the American...

read more

The Sound of Culture, The Structure of Tradition Musicians' Work in Arab Detroit

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.1 MB)
pp. 551-572

WITH THEIR LOUD sound systems and lively dance tunes, Arab American musicians bring to community gatherings an all-encompassing sonic environment that replaces the host culture with the home cuture. Night after night, performance after performance, they supply musicians as "curators of culture" and their activity as "art," they...

read more

Family Resemblances Kinship and Community in Arab Detroit

pdf iconDownload PDF (6.5 MB)
pp. 573-610

In 1982 Husayn's1 family was killed by an Israeli bomb. It leveled the Beirut apartment building where they were spending their last an-ious days in Lebanon. Husayn's father, mother, aunt, three sisters, and two brothers had recently fled their village in the south—ironically, to escape Israeli shelling—and were making arrangements to emigrate...


pdf iconDownload PDF (103.5 KB)
pp. 611-612


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.0 MB)
pp. 613-629

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339787
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814328125

Page Count: 630
Illustrations: 52
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: Great Lakes Books Series