Abstract

Abstract:

For migrants traveling to the United States in the early twentieth century, their transit across hemispheres held the sites where race and gender were forged, and the consequences of these scattered encounters were felt long after they arrived in their destination. My article traces the circuitous route to the United States of Zeinab Ameen, a Syrian migrant in Detroit who became entangled in the investigation of her ex-husband's murder in 1932. Ameen was tried for his murder with Louis Gross, a Jewish peddler and outsider to their tight-knit Syrian community. Gross was charged with the murder, but later exonerated. The press coverage of the trial and the exoneration hinged first on notions of Jewish criminality, then on Jewish exceptionalism, but always on static notions of a corrupted Muslim community and in particular Ameen's sexual deviance within it. I contend that the sites that structured migration for Zeinab policed and produced gendered and sexual relations which were then mystified through notions of culture and civic "fitness," and painted her and her community as unfit and corrupted citizens. Connecting state and popular archival documents in Lebanon, France, and the United States, I analyze the case not through its (mis)readings of an "Oriental" culture, but rather as part of material consequences of migration. Understanding how migration forced Zeinab into vulnerable relations that were rearticulated through cultural signifiers presents a new genealogy of American Orientalism, and locates borders as productive spaces for gender and sexuality in the United States.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1536-0334
Print ISSN
0160-9009
Pages
pp. 120-144
Launched on MUSE
2022-02-04
Open Access
No
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