Chasing Miracles: A Magical Realist Chronicle of Bethlehem’s Pioneering Merchants
global capitalism
historical writing
magical realism
Middle East migration
late Ottoman Palestine
Latin America

The Lives and Deaths of Jubrail Dabdoub is a groundbreaking departure from traditional historical monographs, exploring Bethlehem’s late nineteenth-century emigration boom and sudden exposure to global capitalism through magical realist prose. The book employs key tropes from the genre to convey a historical “mood,” namely the sense of wonder, excitement, bewilderment, and skepticism that swept the town as hundreds of young men set off in search of opportunity and wealth in distant lands known as Amerka, forging the first Arab diaspora. Blending source-based research with imaginative writing, Norris creates a rich montage of scenes from the life of Jubrail Dabdoub, one of Bethlehem’s pioneering transnational merchants. Representing a major contribution to the fields of Middle East migration and diaspora studies and late Ottoman Palestinian history, the work offers new insights into the symbiotic relationship between religion and commerce in the Palestinian hill town, the transformation of family and business structures, and the reshaping of masculinity. Norris’s experimental methodological approach sparks discussions about the role of the historian and the very nature of historical writing.

Author biography: 

Eibhlin Priestley is a history PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge researching the social and economic histories of the “Syrian” community in twentieth century Sudan