Research Update 1: Topics and Travel Plans

In my resolution post, I said that I would provide more research updates, including a post (or two or three) on my recent research trip. Well, here’s the first installment!

One requirement of the UCSD history department is two series of a research seminar. The first series I’m taking is the United States research seminar, a two-quarter course that meets in the fall and spring quarters, with a writing “break” in the winter. As an extension of sorts to my thesis, I’m focusing on the early Arab American experience in the first part of the 20th century. At the end of last quarter, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d be doing, but I’ve gotten myself focused a bit more and I’ll be looking at an Arab American women’s organization, the Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society of Boston, in the first two decades after its formation in 1917.

In my examination, I want to discuss women’s participation in the public sphere through their involvement in the Syrian-American (“Syrian-American” here is used to refer to most of the Arabic-speaking people who came to the United States prior to World War II; most were Christians—Maronites–and came from the Ottoman administrative province known as Balad al-Sham, Greater Syria, and distinguished themselves from Muslim Ottoman subjects by emphasizing their Syrian-ness rather than Turk-ness), greater Boston area, national, and international communities.

Most of the materials for my project are not available through interlibrary loan (for those who don’t know about this, it’s an amazing service offered by most universities that allows you to access books, articles, sources, and the like from other libraries), so I knew at the end of last quarter that I might need to do some traveling. There were three places in particular that I was able to find through WorldCat that had some of the things I was looking for: the Arab American National Museum (AANM) in Dearborn (near Detroit), Michigan, the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) at the University of Minnesota, and the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University. I ultimately decided that going to the AANM would be the most fruitful. So, I bought my plane ticket, got myself a winter coat, and packed my bags, set to leave on January 1 for 5½ days of research.

Check out the blog next week to see Research Update 2: In the Archive.

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