From Hadramawt to East Africa : Arabs in East Africa in the 19th and 20th century and the many meanings of homeland
Anne Bang (Université de Bergen)
Hadrami migration to East Africa can be documented at from least the 1500s, but was clearly present also centuries before. In East Africa, Hadrami migrants used the same strategies as elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, including strategic marriages as a way of settling into local communities. The result of persistent migration over centuries, combined with strategic marriages, was that by the eighteenth century, Ḥaḍramīs were fully “Swahilizised”, especially in linguistic terms. The nineteenth century saw a more widespread re-connection with Arabness, and with the Ḥaḍramawt in particular, as evidenced by the travel patterns, language preferences and teaching concerns of the East African scholarly class. However, the “re-Arabization” did not really extend to the mother tongue, which remained Swahili even for the families that had (re-)established themselves with Hadrami Sharifian lineages. This presentation discusses the many meanings of Arabness and homeland in societies marked by migration, and also the ways in which identity is marked by current political and intellectual impulses, but locally and translocallly.
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