Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Arizona

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Arizona
Across the Mediterranean, 1863-1919: Italian Working-Class Migrants in Egypt and Practices of Cosmopolitanism

From the Napoleonic era to the Great War, tens of thousands of people, many of humble social status, crossed the Mediterranean in search for work, land, or refuge. These migrants, coming from various parts of Europe and particularly the Mediterranean islands, settled in Egypt, the Levant, or North Africa. (Clancy-Smith 2011, 3). My research is centered on Italian working-class migrants and other "foreign" residents in Egypt, from 1863 until 1919. My dissertation explores their everyday practices of work, neighborhood sociability, leisure, and family life. I argue that these constituted expressions of cosmopolitanism that intersected in complex ways with various forms of nationalism and imperialism. Cosmopolitan ways of inhabiting the world might have not been the exclusive realm of educated, wealthy, globe-trotting élites. Similarly, "nationalistic" sentiments and behaviors were not the exclusive purview of "the native" or "colonized" and co-existed with other sorts of belonging. By probing and analyzing trans-Mediterranean migrants from a novel perspective, my research aims to question the treatment of nationalism and cosmopolitanism as mutually exclusive worldviews that incubated distinct political-cultural communities. While the workings of the consulates in Cairo and Alexandria seemed to signal that Italian legal identity was definite, social practices were actually muddled and the boundaries of community were less fixed or stable. The archives speak of a practice of cosmopolitanism beyond a discourse of neatly defined legal expatriate nationalities with the larger envelope of European imperialism in the region. Arguing against the overemphasis on ethno-national taxonomies, my research views the everyday through the lens of an evolving cosmopolitanism that existed in uneasy tension with nationalist identities. Thus, my research project engages three principles theoretical axes: nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and imperialism.