05-10-2018: Early Turkish Immigration to the United States: A Forgotten Chapter of American History

Early Turkish Immigration to the United States: A Forgotten Chapter of American History

Thursday, May 10, 2018, 6:30pm-8:00pm

Room 9205

Talk by Professor Işıl Acehan, Research fellow, John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies (FSCIRE) and Editor, Global Daily News

While the immigration of Syrian Christians to the United States is becoming better known, at the end of the nineteenth century and during the early years of the twentieth, thousands of Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Albanians, Greeks, and Sephardic Jews also migrated from the Ottoman Empire for economic as well as political reasons. The migration was fostered in part by American charitable and philanthropic work, particularly in regions such as Harput that had a considerable Christian population. Circulation of information about life and opportunities in the United States led to the development of a general Ottoman migration, particularly to the East Coast. The first departures were seen among Armenians who made their way to America with missionaries. Immigrant networks, letters to friends, and return migration provided practical information about jobs and opportunities in American industries and led immigrants to American cities where members of their groups had already established themselves. These communications soon attracted not only other Armenians but also other Ottoman peoples living in close proximity in Anatolian villages. The Muslim component of Middle Eastern immigrant communities in the United States, especially of Turkish ethnicity, has not garnered substantial scholarly attention for a long time. This lecture will trace the history of Turkish immigration to the United States in the early twentieth century and provide an overview of the developing scholarship in this area.

Işıl Acehan is a post-doctoral research fellow at John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies (FSCIRE) in Bologna, Italy and an editor at Global Daily News. Dr. Acehan completed her Ph.D. in history at Bilkent University, Turkey. Her major research interests are early Turkish immigrants in the U.S., Ottoman migration to the U.S. (1890s-1930s), transnationalism, and U.S.-Ottoman relations. She has served as a resident fellow at various universities and institutions including Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution-National Museum of American History, and the Free University of Berlin.