Arab, Syrian, orientalist, NCSW, social work, Racial Formation Theory, identity


This paper presents the sociopolitical experiences of early Arab migrants in the United States (U.S.) and the process of contradictory and socially constructed racial categorizations favoring white supremacy. While there is much discourse of the racial formation of Arab immigrants since 9-11, the actual racial project started in the early twentieth century, through varies entities including the social work profession where the “othering” process of early Arabs Americans existed in social welfare practice. Examples of the pejorative attitudes towards Arab immigrants from the early social work discourse are examined through proceedings from the National Conference on Social Welfare (NCSW) in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. Such conference proceedings from 1882 to 1982 highlight an Orientalist, ethnocentric and xenophobic stance towards early Arab immigrants. Implications for social work practice, education, and policy/advocacy are discussed.

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