Accepted Paper:

Tourists or homecomers? Coming home to Zanzibar and Hadramawt  


Iain Walker (Martin-Luther-Universit├Ąt Halle-Wittenberg)

Paper long abstract:

This paper contemplates the movements of people in the Western Indian Ocean, focussing on those who have mixed Swahili and Hadrami ancestry. For centuries Hadramis have travelled on the monsoon winds between Hadramawt and East Africa. Many of these sailors, traders and labourers settled in East Africa, marrying locally but retaining a collective sense of identity as a community bound by culture, social practice and the idea of a homeland which they transmitted to their children. Some never returned to Hadramawt, others returned to visit, still others to retire, others again sent children back. Subsequent generations, born in East Africa, also visit the land of their ancestors, either as tourists, labourers, or to return "home". These various movements are prompted by economic, political or affective considerations: booms in the Yemeni oil industry, anti-Arab sentiment in East Africa, a longing to visit ancestral homes. This paper asks how the idea of home is developed and how it frames such journeys, both towards Hadramawt and, subsequently, back towards East Africa. It suggests that individual conceptions of home shift during the course of these trajectories, adapting to experience, and it suggests that if the idea of "home" is essential to being a tourist (if tourism occurs away from home), then as individuals' perceptions of home shift, so, too, do their identities as "tourist". These shifts can of course work in both directions: homecomers may find that they are tourists, just as tourists may suddenly realise that they have come home.

Panel C2
Roots tourism