Converging cultures: The Hadrami diaspora in the Indian Ocean 2011-2013


This project, which forms part of the Oxford Diasporas Programme, uses the Hadrami diaspora as a case study. Driven both by economic constraints and by political unrest, the people of Hadramawt (southern Yemen) have historically emigrated to various parts of the Indian Ocean, taking a range of influences with them (particularly religion) and returning with others (food, clothing, architecture, ideas). The Hadrami presence is particularly visible in Singapore and parts of Indonesia; in India; on the Swahili coast; in North-East Africa; and in the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia.

This research analysed the strategies that individuals and groups employ in the pursuit of economic, religious, political or social ends, paying particular attention to the way that links among and between kin-based, religious and cultural groups are activated and consolidated to achieve these ends. It also investigated how the Hadrami diaspora (in East Africa, South Asia and the Arabian peninsula) and the homeland sustain one another through enduring links of various kinds, and looked at how convergences (or reconvergences) of diasporic activity on the homeland provide for a parallel reshaping of homeland identity and the renewal of diasporic

Principal Investigator

Iain Walker


The Leverhulme Trust

News & Media

The Hadramis of the Indian Ocean: a diaspora and its networks
Blog | Iain Walker

Understanding a diaspora through Lamu Maulid
Blog | Iain Walker

Recipe for a diaspora: take one millionaire…
Blog | Iain Walker

The uncertainties of diaspora research
Blog | Iain Walker

Saudi Arabia and its immigrants
Blog | Iain Walker

IMI YouTube video (

Blog Post (

Press Article (Mukalla Today, 24 November 2013)

Press Article (Ahgaf Today, 14 February 2013)


East Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Yemen






Research was spread over two years and was based on fieldwork – semi-formal interviews and participant observation – although some archival research was also be required. Fieldwork was first carried out in Hadramawt, where already established networks were renewed and trajectories were mapped outwards, to south India, the Gulf States and to East Africa. Following Hadramawt, research visits were made to specific areas in the three regions under consideration: Zanzibar and Comoros in East Africa; Abu Dhabi and Jeddah in the Gulf States; and Kochi and Kozhikode in Kerala (south India). A final research trip to Hadramawt allowed for meetings to take place with individuals and families whose kin and friends had been met on visits elsewhere.