Robin Buller

Tandem Visiting Fellow

Pacific Office of the German Historical Institute Washington
Institute of European Studies | University of California, Berkeley | 249 Moses Hall | Berkeley, CA 94720-2316

Biographical Summary

Robin Buller is a historian of migration, modern Europe, modern France, and the Jewish Mediterranean. Her work investigates questions of Jewish identity and belonging through the lenses of language, citizenship, and transnational networks.

Robin is presently a Tandem Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Migration based at the GHI’s Pacific Office in Berkeley, California. Previously, she was a dissertation fellow with the Association for Jewish Studies (2020-2021) and a Saul Kagan Fellow in Advanced Shoah Studies with the Claims Conference (2018-2020). She received her PhD in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2021) with a dissertation that examined Sephardi Jewish immigrants from the Ottoman Empire in twentieth-century Paris, focusing on collective identity, communal life, and belonging in the Third Republic. Her peer-reviewed publications include a study of Greek Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz and the role of multilingualism (2017, Yad Vashem Studies) and an examination of Sephardi transnational ties through a monument constructed in interwar Paris dedicated to Ottoman Jews who fought for France during the First World War (forthcoming, Jewish Social Studies).

Robin’s current research focuses on questions of migration, belonging, and identity among Jews living in and around the Mediterranean in the modern era. Her first book project, rooted in her doctoral dissertation, examines the history of Ottoman Jewish immigrants in Paris in the first half of the twentieth century. In it, she argues that cultural and legal characteristics rooted in Jewish life in the Ottoman lands —such as prior knowledge of the French language and access to papers and protection from foreign governments—persisted among members of the community even after the Empire’s demise, and distinguished them other Jewish and immigrant groups. Persisting transnational ties facilitated the formation of a distinct Ottoman Sephardi immigrant identity in interwar Paris that was equal parts French and foreign. As a GHI fellow, Robin will expand the book’s scope of analysis to examine how these networks, skills, and forms of knowledge led to the emergence of distinct pathways of both persecution and survival during the Second World War and the Holocaust. During her fellowship, Robin will also begin working on a second book project that investigates the histories of human movement, imperial collapse, and new global governance through the lens Jewish women who were trafficked as sex workers around the Mediterranean during the “Age of Migration” in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Main Areas of Interest

  • Migration
  • Migrant Knowledge
  • Transnational History
  • Modern Europe
  • French History and National Identity
  • The Histories of Empire and France’s Mission Civilisatrice
  • Jewish History and the Jewish Mediterranean
  • Sephardi History