Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Bianca Premo

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Michael Bustamante

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Julio Capó Jr.

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jorge Duany

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Sarah M.A. Gualtieri

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Comittee Member


Cuba, Latin America, Syria, Lebanon, Mahjar, Caribbean, Law, Migration, Citizenship, Belonging, Identity, Ethnicity, Transnational, Diaspora

Date of Defense



Émigrés from Ottoman Syria and Cuba who, beginning in the late-nineteenth century, traveled not unidirectionally, from one nation to another, but between and within multiethnic, polycentric empires. Tracing their history opens a route to better understanding global legal regimes of citizenship. Weaving government records from Cuba, France, and the United States with associational records and oral history interviews, this dissertation reveals how vernacular understandings of citizenship in Cuba and the Levant, based on locally derived conceptions of belonging, but over time contended with liberalizing legal reforms meant to redefine citizenship as a state-focused and legible status. As a mobile population caught between empires, states, and these rival citizenship regimes, Lebanese and Syrian migrants and their descendants in Cuba cultivated transnational networks and conceptions of citizenship defined by fluid and diasporic understandings of belonging. This study adds to the growing scholarship on the mahjar, or lands of Arab emigration, and reveals how Cuba played a pivotal role in an Atlantic world shaped by movement and shifting sovereignties. These migrants embodied what scholar of the mahjar Camila Pastor has called a “floating world of elsewhere.” In a world of shifting imperial systems and nationalist movements, mahjaris in Cuba both made claims to Cubanidad and leveraged their transnational networks to advocate on their behalf in Cuba and to exercise political influence in the Levant. And, when state-focused regimes of belonging finally prevailed on the island, particularly after the 1959 Revolution, many descendants of the original muhajarin who came to Cuba from the Levant, but certainly not all, again turned to their networks of travel and communication to find new homes. In the end, understanding the regimes of citizenship with which these people contended and constructed broadens our scope of the study of global legal history and citizenship to include vernacular understandings of belonging within transnational contexts.





Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).