Accepted Paper:

Home and away: being Comorian in Ngazidja and Zanzibar  

Author:

Iain Walker (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the different strategies used by Comorians to maintain, develop and take advantage of their identities in social contexts in two locations: 'at home' (the Comoros) and 'away' (Zanzibar), showing how Comorian culture and society is both highly resilient and remarkably eclectic.

Paper long abstract:

Comorian social institutions are remarkably resilient; Comorian culture is remarkably eclectic. This paper confronts the parallel processes of social stability and cultural change within the Comorian community in two locations: "at home", on the Comorian island of Ngazidja, and "away", on the island of Zanzibar. In the former location, cultural changes allow for Comorians to represent themselves as French, Arab, African, using these identifications as strategies for negotiating interactions with others in a context where social institutions are firmly anchored, both spatially and conceptually. In Zanzibar, however, if Comorian identity remains a social marker, changes in the content of the category "Comorian" has, over the years, both required and been driven by a reworking of the relationships between, on the one hand, Comorians in Zanzibar and, on the other hand, both the wider Zanzibari community and the Comorian community in Ngazidja. This paper considers these two aspects of Comorian identity and the strategies called upon by both communities in negotiating their interactions with others while at the same time preserving their own cohesiveness as groups.

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Islands of Doom, Islands of Bliss: revisiting maritime places of conquest and exploitation, pleasure and consumption