This article examines the figure of the returning émigré in late Ottoman and early Mandate Palestine. The wave of Palestinians who emigrated in the pre-World War I period did not, for the most part, intend to settle abroad permanently. Hailing largely from small towns and villages in the Palestinian hilly interior, they moved in and out of the Middle East with great regularity and tended to reinvest their money and social capital in their place of origin. The article argues that these emigrants constituted a previously undocumented segment of Palestinian society, the nouveaux riches who challenged the older elites from larger towns and cities in both social and economic terms. The discussion focuses in particular on their creation of new forms of bourgeois culture and the disruptive impact this had on gender and family relations, complicating the assumption that middle-class modernity in Palestine was largely effected by external actors.
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