P127 – Collective Mobilisations in Africa and the Indian Ocean (CRG Africa in the Indian Ocean panel)
9 July, 14:00 – 15:30

Kaarsholm Preben / Roskilde University
Ramos Manuel João / ISCTE, Lisbon


Iain Walker, University of Oxford

The panel is organized by the AEGIS collaborative research group on Africa in the Indian Ocean. It will discuss ongoing research on the transnational and transoceanic trajectories of cultural and political movements, and the ways in which Indian Ocean networks have had an impact on history and development in Africa.

Mobilisations collectives en Afrique et dans l’Océan Indien
Ce panel est organisé par le groupe de recherches collaboratives AEGIS sur l’Afrique dans l’océan Indien. Il examinera les recherches en cours sur les trajectoires transnationales et transocéaniques des mouvements culturels et politiques, et les façons dont les réseaux de l’océan Indien ont eu un impact sur l’histoire et sur le développement en Afrique.


Paper 1

Keshodkar Akbar / Moravian College

Global Flows, Local Mobilization: Impact of Zanzibari Indian Ocean Diaspora on socialization and politicization of local religious communities in Zanzibar

While Zanzibar served as a cosmopolitan Indian Ocean cultural and economic center under the rule of the Omanis, the aftermath of the 1964 Revolution initiated a new era of displacement for Zanzibaris; thousands of them fleeing in exile or as refugees across the western Indian Ocean. Despite their dispersal, many of these Zanzibaris, while become integrated into other societies, have managed to renew their association with Zanzibar in the post-socialist era, in many instances with access to far greater financial resources than their Zanzibari counterparts. By incorporating Appadurai’s framework of “scapes” for directing new forms of global cultural flows (1990), this paper, based on ongoing ethnographical research on Indian Ocean social networks, examines how, through their ability to shape new social imaginaries in the lives of Zanzibaris, members of the diaspora across the Indian Ocean are influencing the development of new social and political ideologies and modes of religious mobilization within different Muslim communities back in Zanzibar. Drawing on examples of the Ibadis from Oman, the Bohras in India, the Ismailis in Kenya, mainland Tanzania and Zanzibaris in the United Arab Emirates, this paper analyzes how social imaginaries associated with transnational cultural flows enable the diaspora to become instrumental in mobilizing local communities and contesting local ideas of belonging, and in turn advocate new models of Indian Ocean cosmopolitanism.

Paper 2

Mirzai Behnaz / Brock University

African Identity Formation/Transformation in Iran

Iran has been the locus of cultural, economic, and population exchanges for millennia. As elsewhere, newcomers gradually assimilated within and transformed native populations; indeed, cultural identities have constantly evolved in Iran, leading to the emergence of multiple ethnicities. I will discuss the development of identity formation among African communities within the context of Iran’s richly multicultural society, focusing on their cultural representations and practices. I argue that a combination of Islamic and local customs served as unifying factors in the integration of Africans arriving in Iran both before and after emancipation in 1929. While the representation of political identity has historically been determined by governmental policy, Persian customs and Islam have consistently worked together in forging a comprehensive national identity, blurring subnational feelings and sentiments. Simultaneously, local ethnic and religious variables continued to create subethnic and multiethnic identities. Today, the result is seen in the existence of multiethnic groups of people that celebrate a myriad of national, religious, ethnic, regional, and cultural identities.
Afro-Iranian is a general term that can easily be expanded to refer to many subethnic identities (e.g., Afro-Bandari Iranian, Afro-Baluchi Iranian, and Afro-Arab Iranian). While each group had a distinct experience of identity formation and transformation based on specific geographical, cultural, social, and political circumstances, we must underline interrelationships and the integration within and among people and cultures associated with the African diaspora in Iran. My approach to the study of African descendants in Iran is primarily based on personal observations, interviews, oral traditions, archival materials, and literature. Local geographical variations and cultural diversifications of subethnic societies in Iran had a direct impact on the formation of the distinct cultural identity and communal patterns of the Afro-Iranian population, which could best be understood through first-hand observation. Fieldwork in rural and urban areas of Iran’s southern provinces was crucial in appreciating the communities of African descendants.

Paper 3

Sanchez Samuel / niversité Paris Diderot Paris 7

Perilous shores: Of Malagasy kingdoms, piracy and attacks against foreign traders on the coasts of Madagascar, 16th-20th centuries.

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Malagasy coasts were often considered dangerous by European seafarers. Over the same period of time, European trade was slowly integrating the Indian Ocean world, thereby altering its organization. While the phenomenon of 17th-century European piracy has already been studied at large, the question of Malagasy attacks against the vessels that anchored in the coastal waters of Madagascar has never been studied in its own right. Indeed, even if Malagasy piracy attacks have often been made mention of, they have never been given more thorough consideration by scholars – whether R. Kent, J.-P. Vérin or S. Ellis, among others. This phenomenon cannot be considered independently from its Malagasy context and deserves to be studied specifically. It is from such a perspective that I will examine the role of Malagasy political economies in relation to this issue. I therefore propose to establish a census and present a typology – classified in regions and periods – of the different types of attacks – whether crew killing, cargo theft or hostage-taking – perpetrated over time by various Malagasy powers.
These attacks launched against Atlantic seafarers in fact revealed internal Malagasy competition over the monopoly of trade, the latter being synonymous with reinforced political power. It may also be seen as evidence of the then existing competition between the various Indian ocean trading networks involved in Malagasy economy.

Paper 4

Bastião Maria Pereira / Leiden University

“Brazilian” slave traders in Mozambique Island (early 19th century)

Although the Brazilian slavers had first docked in the Mozambican ports as early as the 17th century, the Brazilian demand for “Moçambiques” only became significant in the first decades of the nineteenth century, largely as a result of the strengthening of the English abolitionist movement in the Atlantic Ocean. While slave-trade between Brazil and the African coastal corresponding to present day Mozambique has already been studied regarding the volume of exported slaves, the socio-cultural dynamics brought by this trade has been neglected. Hence, this paper intends to study the Brazilians who acted as slave traders in Mozambique Island between the late 18th century and the first decades of the 19th century. The overall intention is to reconstruct their personal pathways, and get to know their networks and their business strategies in the Indian and the Atlantic contexts, their family strategies and their integration in the insular society. By so doing, this paper seeks to better understand the relationships that these men established between themselves,with others and with the space(s) in which they acted, namely Mozambique Island but also, and as far as possible, with the other ports where they had traded. The analysis will draw upon manuscript sources gathered in the Overseas Historical Archive (the Overseas Council collection), for instance, population maps, juridical documents including witnesses lists, military documents, among others.

Paper 5

Neposteri Silvia / Università degli Studi di Pavia and Inalco (Paris)

Islamic groups’ migrations and the heritage of writing in the south-east of Madagascar

À partir de 2000 av. J.C., l’Océan Indien a été parcouru par nombreuses vagues de migrants arrivés sur l’Île Rouge. La migration et le mélange culturel représentent donc évidemment un élément non négligeable dans la compréhension de l’histoire aussi bien que de la civilisation malgache. Notre communication propose une présentation des voyages des groupes islamisés parvenus au sud-est de Madagascar (XIIème-XVème siècles). Une attention particulière sera consacrée à l’organisation traditionnelle du groupe antemoro, installé sur les côtes du fleuve Matitanana. Pour mieux en comprendre la structure sociale, on reviendra aussi sur les informations contenues dans quelques sorabe, manuscrits en langue malgache transcrite en caractères arabes. Le voyage des ancêtres est décrit en détail dans certains manuscrits et joue un rôle pivot dans la mémoire collective aussi bien que dans la construction de l’identité et la justification des prérogatives des groupes nobles. L’écriture sorabe sera donc présentée comme source documentaire et comme outil chargé d’une valeur sociale et politique fondamentale dans le système de pouvoir antemoro. En conclusion, le cas ethnographique antemoro donnera l’occasion pour contribuer au débat scientifique à propos de plusieurs thèmes historiques et anthropologiques d’intérêt, tels que l’héritage des migrations islamisées à Madagascar ou encore les dynamiques de pouvoir et d’intégration/exclusion sociale liées au rôle politique de l’écriture.

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