Charlotte Karem Albrecht: Interdisciplinary Scholar of Arab American History

Charlotte Karem Albrecht is an assistant professor of American Culture and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she is also a core faculty member for the Arab and Muslim American Studies program and affiliated faculty for the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Her first book, Possible Histories: Arab Americans and the Queer Ecology of Peddling, is forthcoming with University of California Press.

Professor Karem Albrecht’s research interests include Arab American history, histories of gender and sexuality, women of color feminist theory, queer of color critique, and interdisciplinary historicist methods. She is in the early stages of a second book project that puts Arab American history in conversation with studies of U.S. settler colonialism, examining the varied relationships of Arab Americans to indigenous sovereignty.

Professor Karem Albrecht received a B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies and in French from Rice University and a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota, with a minor in American Studies. Her work has been published in Arab Studies Quarterly, Gender & History, and the Journal of American Ethnic History. She lives in southeast Michigan with her partner and a small menagerie of cats and dogs. She loves to garden, and is a longtime singer and violist.

Download Dr. Karem Albrecht’s current CV here.

Charlotte smiling in a blue dress

Visualizing Arab Americans in History

These photographs are of Lebanese immigrants and their descendants living in or around Louisville, Kentucky in the first half of the twentieth century. Most of them are my relatives. After migrating, they often called themselves “Syrians,” given that what we know today as Lebanon was then part of the Ottoman province of Syria, or Bilad al-Sham in Arabic. These migrants navigated a race- and class-stratified society that was tightly bound by norms of gender and sexuality. Syrians sought to maintain the ties of family, community, and spirituality upon which they depended as they variously incorporated and resisted the norms that were imposed upon them in the United States. 

As well as being keepsakes for future generations, these photographs of leisure time and fancy dress are marks of real or aspirational class status, which was sutured to white supremacy. They are sites of memory, melancholy, fantasy, and grief. For more on the function of photographs in Arab American family and community archives, see the fourth chapter of my book, Possible Histories: Arab Americans and the Queer Ecology of Peddling (University of California Press, 2023).