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Global Futures: The Political Economy of Greek Orthodox Business Families
My proposed paper concerns wealthy Levantine families and their family companies in the mid-nineteenth century. The Levantine families at the heart of this paper were based in Beirut, but migrated from Istanbul to Northern Lebanon and onto locales across the Mediterranean and beyond. For this paper, I will interrogate migration and kinship connections in business that go beyond the immediate family. Instead, I focus on and theorize the connection of Greek business families in a critical moment of globalization, vertical integration, and capital accumulation in the Levant and around the globe. Drawing on the family papers of the Sursuq and Bustrus families, housed in the Phoenix Center at USEK in Kaslik, Lebanon, I specifically ask: How did Beirut-based families’ Greek identity inform business connections and practices across the globe and vice versa? Relatedly, how can scholars theorize these familial connections in the mid-nineteenth century while taking their business acumen and goal of large-scale capital accumulation seriously? That is, how do the Levantine families’ commercial connection challenge the family/company dichotomy? Further, how can they help to shift scholars away from the superficiality or pre-capitalist assumptions Fahad Bishara correctly shows is implied by ‘networks’, ‘trust,’ or ‘family’ (Sea of Debt, 9)? I have specifically found that the Greek identity was critical to Levantine families’ forging commercial exchanges in France, Britain, Greece, and as far away as Brazil. Family identity and sense of shared geography was, indeed, also shaped by these commercial interactions. Indeed, one of the first known connections between the Levantine Greek Orthodox business families and Greek businesses abroad was the Greek firm located in London, Lascaridi and Co. After purchasing the Greek and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, it served the Levant, Istanbul, and the Black Sea region. A major factor in the Greek companies’ success in transportation was a shared Greek language and evolving community. Proximity permitted quick communication, but participation in a world that was linguistically inaccessible to most Europeans was integral to the companies’ success.
Geographic Area
Arab States
Mediterranean Countries
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area