Accepted paper:

Settled strangers: the emergence of an Asian business elite in the Indian Ocean region, 1900-2000


Gijsbert Oonk (Erasmus School of History Culture and Communication)

Paper short abstract:

This book describes and explains how and why the South Asians in East Africa have emerged as a successful transnational, diasporic community, 1800-2000.

Paper long abstract:

The book is a comprehensive history of South Asian migrants in East Africa. It focuses on the balance between settling and unsettling in a globalizing world. The book aims to achieve a broader understanding of communities that do not belong to nations, yet are part of national states, by using insights from the social sciences, including concepts like cultural capital, family firm, transnationality, middleman minorities and cultural change. Over the last 150 years, the Asian African diasporic community endured important economic and political transitions, like the move of the Sultan of Oman to Zanzibar, the colonization of East Africa by the Germans and the British, and the emergence of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as national states. The case of the South Asians in East Africa shows that this community was economically and culturally highly diverse. Moreover, its economic and cultural interests shifted from South Asia to Africa and, eventually, to Western Europe and North America. Eventually, they develop a 'triple heritage' that consists of a unique combination of experiences, habits and tools that became useful in the globalized world. For instance, knowledge of English and Swahili, as well as Gujarati, made it possible to bridge the gap between the Western world and Africa and India. Nowadays, Asian Africans have become a globalized community in a globalized world.

panel P061
Africa in the Indian Ocean