We tend to think of citizenship as something that is either offered or denied by a state. Modern history teaches otherwise. Reimagining citizenship as a legal spectrum along which individuals can travel, Extraterritorial Dreams explores the history of Ottoman Jews who sought, acquired, were denied or stripped of citizenship in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—as the Ottoman Empire retracted and new states were born—in order to ask larger questions about the nature of citizenship itself.
Sarah Abrevaya Stein traces the experiences of Mediterranean Jewish women, men, and families who lived through a tumultuous series of wars, border changes, genocides, and mass migrations, all in the shadow of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the ascendance of the modern passport regime. Moving across vast stretches of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas, she tells the intimate stories of people struggling to find a legal place in a world ever more divided by political boundaries and competing nationalist sentiments. From a poor youth who reached France as a stowaway only to be hunted by the Parisian police as a spy to a wealthy Baghdadi-born man in Shanghai who willed his fortune to his Eurasian Buddhist wife, Stein tells stories that illuminate the intertwined nature of minority histories and global politics through the turbulence of the modern era.
The history of Algerian Jews has thus far been viewed from the perspective of communities on the northern coast, who became, to some extent, beneficiaries of colonialism. But to the south, in the Sahara, Jews faced a harsher colonial treatment. In Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria, Sarah Abrevaya Stein asks why the Jews of Algeria’s south were marginalized by French authorities, how they negotiated the sometimes brutal results, and what the reverberations have been in the postcolonial era.
Drawing on materials from thirty archives across six countries, Stein tells the story of colonial imposition on a desert community that had lived and traveled in the Sahara for centuries. She paints an intriguing historical picture—of an ancient community, trans-Saharan commerce, desert labor camps during World War II, anthropologist spies, battles over oil, and the struggle for Algerian sovereignty. Writing colonialism and decolonization into Jewish history and Jews into the French Saharan one, Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria is a fascinating exploration not of Jewish exceptionalism but of colonial power and its religious and cultural differentiations, which have indelibly shaped the modern world.