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Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil

John Tofik Karam

Publication Year: 2007

Offering a novel approach to the study of ethnicity in the neoliberal market, Another Arabesque is the first full-length book in English to focus on the estimated seven million Arabs in Brazil. With insights gained from interviews and fieldwork, John Tofik Karam examines how Brazilians of Syrian-Lebanese descent have gained greater visibility and prominence as the country has embraced its globalizing economy, particularly its relations with Arab Gulf nations. At the same time, he recounts how Syrian-Lebanese descendents have increasingly self-identified as "Arabs." Karam demonstrates how Syrian-Lebanese ethnicity in Brazil has intensified through market liberalization, government transparency, and consumer diversification. Utilizing an ethnographic approach, he employs current social and business phenomena as springboards for investigation and discussion. Uncovering how Arabness appears in places far from the Middle East, Another Arabesque makes a new and valuable contribution to the study of how identity is formed and shaped in the modern world.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

... in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, my brother and I accompanied our Brazilian-born cousin to a local arts-and-crafts fair. Among tourists and national artisans, my brother set his eyes on an elaborate bottle decorated with fake stones. With a client in his midst, the vendor declared, “Forty thousand cruzeiros.” Appalled at the inflated price, my cousin and I countered that it was not ...

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INTRODUCTION • The Politics of Privilege

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pp. 1-20

...I follow the public signs of Arabness. I first come across Habib’s Arab fast-food restaurant. Preparing almost half of the estimated 1.2 million esfihas (“Arab” meat pies) sold daily in the city, the chain is ignored by professionals who drive in the direction of posh Syrian–Lebanese restaurants up the street. I proceed toward Club Homs on the main avenue.Hailed as “the house of Arabs,” it is one of a half-dozen Middle ...

PART ONE: Imagining Political Economy

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pp. 21-22

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ONE • Pariahs to Partners in the Export Nation

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pp. 23-45

... powerful industrialists of Syrian–Lebanese descent founded a chamber of commerce together in 1952. Financed by their family fortunes from the Brazilian textile market, the chamber originally served their high-society pretensions in Brazil and with the homeland. Yet, under its present-day name of the Câmara de Comércio Árabe Brasileira ...

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TWO • Eth(n)ics and Transparent State Reform

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pp. 46-68

... shrewdness of Arabs also made headline news in a corruption scandal that mired the São Paulo city government in 1999 and 2000. As citizens from lay, business, and media circles clamored for “more transparent” governance, city councilors of Middle Eastern origin became the embodiment of corruption in mainstream media reportage. In efforts to offset their image as corrupt ethnics, city councilors of ...

PART TWO: Remodeling the Nationalist Order

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pp. 69-70

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THREE • Turcos in the Market Model of Racial Democracy

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pp. 71-94

Originally, it was used by early twentieth-century Brazilian elites to denigrate immigrants as economic pariahs. Rejecting the lowly classification, however, Syrian–Lebanese merchants sought a higher status by sending their children to private and post-secondary institutions. This generational strategy for upward mobility has continued in similar courses undertaken no exterior ...

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FOUR • Mixing Christians, Cloning Muslims

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pp. 95-118

... ethnic recognition, especially in a historically Roman Catholic nation such as Brazil. Estimated to make up at least 80 percent of Middle Eastern immigrants in the early twentieth century, Christian Syrian–Lebanese were scrutinized by state immigration experts in terms of their tendency to wed in the homeland and their low rates of “miscegenation.”1 To be Brazilian, in such nationalist thinking, was ...

PART THREE: Marketing Ethnic Culture

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pp. 119-120

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FIVE • Ethnic Reappropriation in the Country Club Circuit

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pp. 121-143

... in addition to Eastern Christian and Islamic traditions—inspired dozens of social, charity, and religious associations in early twentieth-century São Paulo. Today gaining renown in the colônia and the public sphere, these institutions have become luxurious spaces for the consumption of hummus and caviar, belly and ballroom dances, as well as lute-like oud and karaoke performances. In ...

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SIX • Air Turbulence in Homeland Tourism

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pp. 144-165

... Brazilians of Syrian–Lebanese descent are avid consumers of international travel.1 Although their preferred destination, like that of many well-to-do Brazilians, is the United States, their itineraries began to diversify in the late 1990s, as suggested by weekly tourism ads and reviews in the mainstream press. In fact,Middle Eastern tourist packages have been familiar features in Brazilian newspaper travel ...

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CONCLUSION • In Secure Futures: Arabness, Neoliberalism, and Brazil

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pp. 166-176

... have celebrated their economic, political, and cultural contributions to the Brazilian nation. Members of second and third generations have recurrently emphasized Arabs’ commercial prowess, ascent into political circles and liberal professions, masculine fame in familial regimes, and popularized forms of cuisine and dance. This book has shown that such ethnic pride is not necessarily ...


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pp. 177-194


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pp. 195-208


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pp. 209-214

E-ISBN-13: 9781592135417

Publication Year: 2007