A Circulation Society, Reconsidered: Syrian Jewish Merchant Networks after the Exodus from Aleppo


  • Paul Anderson University of Cambridge




Syria, Jews, trading networks, Milan, Kobe, São Paulo


This article analyses the durability of transregional Syrian Jewish merchant networks through the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, when the centre of these trading networks shifted several times in response to economic transformations and political pressures. Migration patterns from Aleppo following the Ottoman collapse and the exodus after 1947 call for a modified conceptualisation of centres, peripheries and circulation from dominant approaches to merchant networks and circulation societies. Centres are generally thought of as the origin points of persons and goods – namely, women, religious specialists and collateral-free credit – which circulate exclusively within the network; peripheries are nodes which merely receive and depend on centres in these respects. I add to this by analysing central or critical nodes as those where different kinds of mobility intersected to inject new vitality into the networks. Peripheries are not only dependent nodes, but vital points of refuge and transition in times of duress. Furthermore, beyond persons and credit, the circulation of aesthetic and ethical standards, in addition to name values, has helped to maintain the integrity of the network in a period of geographic reconfiguration.

Author Biography

Paul Anderson, University of Cambridge

PAUL ANDERSON is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Exchange Ideologies: Commerce, Language and Patriarchy in Pre-conflict Aleppo (Cornell University Press, 2023) and Co-Investigator on the project ‘Afterlives of Urban Muslim Asia: Alternative Imaginaries of Society and Polity’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom.


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