John Tofik Karam

 John Karam

Contact Information

4110 Foreign Languages Building
707 S. Mathews Avenue, MC-176
Urbana, IL 61801-3674

Office Hours

  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 12 to 1 PM
Associate Professor
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Additional Campus Affiliations

Biography

I was born and raised in upstate New York, hearing stories my grandmother told of her birthplace, a town she called “trinta e três,” literally thirty-three. The name derived from the town’s location at the thirty-third kilometer of the Madeira-Mamoré railroad between Porto Velho and Guajará-Mirim, near Brazil’s border with Bolívia. Her Lebanese mother and father had migrated separately to Providence in the U.S., met and married there, and moved to Brazil. My grandmother remembered the mango tree in the backyard of her family’s home and a milking cow provisioned by a “coronel” who her parents had chosen as her godfather. With less than ten years of age, she was sent to Lebanon to be raised. Upon her arrival in the port of Beirut, she recalled the almost suffocating embrace of an old woman, probably her own grandmother, who spoke a language she did not understand. She later married in Lebanon and moved with her husband to upstate New York, where she gave birth to three children, and eventually helped to raise six children, of which I am one. I only began traveling to Brazil as a teenager, and followed an academic track because it brought me back there, again and again, even today.

Research Interests

  • Area and Ethnic Studies, Diaspora and Transnational Studies

Research Description

John Tofik Karam contributes to the transnational turn in area and ethnic studies by reframing South America and the Middle East through their mutually entangled histories. His first book, Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil, won awards from the Arab American National Museum and the Brazilian Studies Association. It was translated by the Editora Martins Fontes into Portuguese and by the Centre for Arab Unity Studies into Arabic. With María del Mar Logroño Narbona and Paulo G. Pinto, Karam coedited the volume, Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino U.S.A.. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, his current book project is titled, “Manifold Destiny: Arabs in an Exceptional Borderland of the Americas.” With Akram Khater and Andrew Arsan, he co-founded the peer-reviewed Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies, http://go.ncsu.edu/mashriq. Published in the journal's inaugural issue, his article, “The Lebanese Diaspora at the Tri-Border and the Redrawing of South American Geopolitics, 1950-1992,” was awarded the best article prize by the Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association. In 2017, he was named Associate Director of the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies and Conrad Humanities Scholar.

Education

  • Ph.D. in Anthropology, Syracuse University, 2004
  • M.A. in Anthropology, Syracuse University, 2000
  • B.A. in Anthropology, University of Rochester, 1996

Grants

Courses

  • Redrawing Hemispheric Borders
  • Introduction to Latin America
  • Writing Migration into Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Brazil in Hemispheric Context
  • Culture and Power in Brazil
  • The Telenovela
  • Brazil as Global Power
  • Contemporary Brazil

Selected Publications

Books

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Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino U.S.A. With María del Mar Logroño Narbona and Paulo G. Pinto. Austin University of Texas Press 2015. University of Texas Press.
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Another Arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese Ethnicity in Neoliberal Brazil Philadelphia Temple University Press 2007. Temple University Press.
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Um outro arabesco: Etnicidade sírio-libanesa no Brasil neoliberal São Paulo Martins Fontes 2009. Martins Fontes Editora.
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Zakhrafah ʻArabīyah min nawʻ ākhar : al-ithnīyah al-Sūrīyah-al-Lubnānīyah fī al-Barāzīl al-nīyūlībrālīyah Beirut Centre for Arab Unity Studies 2012. Center for Arab Unity Studies Press.

Journal Articles

I, Too, Am the Americas: Arabs in the Redrawing of Area and Ethnic Studies Journal of American Ethnic History 37 3 2018.
Philip Hitti, Brazil, and the Diasporic Histories of Area Studies.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 46 3 2014.
On the Trail and Trial of a Palestinian Diaspora: Mapping South America in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1967-1972 Journal of Latin American Studies 45 4 2013.
The Lebanese Diaspora at the Tri-Border and the Redrawing of South American Geopolitics, 1950-1992 Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies 1 1 2013.
Crossing the Americas: The U.S. ‘War on Terror’ and Arab Cross-Border Mobilizations in a South American Frontier Region Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 31 2 2011.
Anti-Semitism from the Standpoint of its Arab Victims in a South American Frontier Zone Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies 6 2 2011.
Historias musulmanas en América Latina y el Caribe Istor: Revista de Historia Internacional 12 45 2011.
Belly Dancing and the (En)Gendering of Ethnic Sexuality in the ‘Mixed’ Brazilian Nation Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 6 2 2010.
A Cultural Politics of Entrepreneurship in Nation-Making: Phoenicians, Turks, and the Arab Commercial Essence in Brazil The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 9 2 2004.
Intensified Eth(n)ics: Arab Brazilians and the ‘Imagined State’ in Neoliberal São Paulo PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 26 1 2003.

Book Contributions

Al-tijara al-kharijiyah: dawr al-mujtam'a al-lubnānī al-Barāzīl – Lubnān: Turath wa Mustaqbal compiled by Ligia Maria Scherer, compiled by Felipe Goulart, compiled by Pedro Veloso. Al-tijara al-kharijiyah: dawr al-mujtam'a al-lubnānī Compiled by Ligia Maria Scherer, Compiled by Felipe Goulart, Compiled by Pedro Veloso, Brasília Ministério das Relações Exteriores/FUNAG 2018.
Comércio Exterior: Papel da Comunidade Libanesa Brasil e Líbano: Legado e Futuro compiled by Ligia Scherer, compiled by Felipe Goulart, compiled by Pedro Veloso. Comércio Exterior: Papel da Comunidade Libanesa Compiled by Ligia Scherer, Compiled by Felipe Goulart, Compiled by Pedro Veloso, Brasília Ministério das Relações Exteriores/FUNAG 2017.
Beside Bandung: Historicizing Brazil in the América do Sul-Países Árabes Summit Latin America and the Middle East compiled by Roberto Khatlab, compiled by Hoda Nehmé, compiled by Élodie Brun. Beside Bandung: Historicizing Brazil in the América do Sul-Países Árabes Summit Compiled by Roberto Khatlab, Compiled by Hoda Nehmé, Compiled by Élodie Brun, Kaslik USEK Press 2015.
A pista e a pena da diáspora palestina: Mapeando a América do Sul no conflito israelo-árabe, 1967-1972 Entre o Velho e o Novo Mundo: A diáspora palestina desde o Oriente Médio à América Latina compiled by Leonardo Schiocchet. A pista e a pena da diáspora palestina: Mapeando a América do Sul no conflito israelo-árabe, 1967-1972 Compiled by Leonardo Schiocchet, Lisboa Chiado Editora 2015.
Latino America in the Umma / the Umma in Latino America Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino U.S.A.. Latino America in the Umma / the Umma in Latino America Austin University of Texas Press 2015.
African Rebellion and Refuge on the Edge of Empire Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino U.S.A.. African Rebellion and Refuge on the Edge of Empire Austin University of Texas Press 2015.
The Politics of Anti-Zionism and Racial Democracy in Homeland Tourism The Middle East and Brazil: Perspectives on the New Global South compiled by Paul Amar. The Politics of Anti-Zionism and Racial Democracy in Homeland Tourism Compiled by Paul Amar, Bloomington Indiana University Press 2014.
Turcos in the Mix: Corrupting Arabs in Brazil’s Racial Democracy Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora compiled by Evelyn AlSultany, compiled by Ella Shohat. Turcos in the Mix: Corrupting Arabs in Brazil’s Racial Democracy Compiled by Evelyn AlSultany, Compiled by Ella Shohat, Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press 2013.
Muslim Histories in Latin America and the Caribbean An Introduction to Islam in the 21st Century compiled by Aminah McCloud, compiled by Scott HIbbard. Muslim Histories in Latin America and the Caribbean Compiled by Aminah McCloud, Compiled by Scott HIbbard, New York Wiley-Blackwell 2013.
Atravessando as Américas: A ‘guerra ao terror,’ os árabes e as mobilizações transfronteiriças desde Foz do Iguaçu e Ciudad del Este A Tríplice Fronteira: espaços nacionais e dinâmicas locais compiled by Lorenzo Macagno, compiled by Silvia Montenegro, compiled by Verónica Giménez Béliveau. Atravessando as Américas: A ‘guerra ao terror,’ os árabes e as mobilizações transfronteiriças desde Foz do Iguaçu e Ciudad del Este Compiled by Lorenzo Macagno, Compiled by Silvia Montenegro, Compiled by Verónica Giménez Béliveau, Curitiba Universidade Federal do Paraná 2011.
Atravesando las Américas: la guerra contra el terror, los árabes y las movilizaciones transfronterizas en Foz de Iguazu y Ciudad del Este La Triple Frontera: dinámicas culturales y procesos transnacionales compiled by Verónica Giménez Béliveau, compiled by Silvia Montenegro. Atravesando las Américas: la guerra contra el terror, los árabes y las movilizaciones transfronterizas en Foz de Iguazu y Ciudad del Este Compiled by Verónica Giménez Béliveau, Compiled by Silvia Montenegro, Buenos Aires Espacio Editorial 2010.
Margins of Memory on the Rua 25 de Marco: Constructing the Syrian-Lebanese Past in São Paulo, Brazil Arabs in the Americas: Interdisciplinary Essays on the Arab Diaspora compiled by Darcy Zabel. Margins of Memory on the Rua 25 de Marco: Constructing the Syrian-Lebanese Past in São Paulo, Brazil Compiled by Darcy Zabel, New York Peter Lang Publishers 2006.

Magazine Articles

Fios árabes, tecido brasileiro: desde o início do século XX, sírios, libaneses e palestinos exercem sua astúcia comercial nos quatro cantos do País Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional 2009.

Short Stories

Hatoum, Milton Brazilian Arabesques translated by John Karam. Mashriq & Mahjar Translated by John Karam, Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies 2013. Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies.

In The News

  • Prof. John Karam has been awarded the very competitive and prestigious  Fulbright Scholar award to conduct research in Brazil for the next two summers.

  • Prof. John Karam has been awarded the Conrad Humanities Professorial Scholar Award. These awards are designed to recognize tenured faculty members who are established or emerging leaders with exceptionally strong scholarly recognition and significant promise for continued achievement.