Comorians and Hadramis in the Western Indian Ocean: Diasporic Practices in a Comparative Context Iain Walker

Introduction

The Indian Ocean has long been a cosmopolitan place and the circulation of people has, over the centuries, created a web of overlapping transnational networks based on religion, kinship and trade. In this article, I examine the similarities and the differences in diasporic practices and relationships with the homeland using two of these groups – Zanzibaris of Hadrami origin and Zanzibaris of Comorian origin – as case studies. In both cases, relationships with the homeland have differentially shaped practices and identities. These relationships are often ambiguous, since the homeland often wishes to encourage the maintenance of links in order to maintain both remittances and prospects for future emigration, which requires an encouragement of a sense of identity with the homeland on the part of the emigrant community. However, there is reluctance, too, for while emigrants may wish to maintain links with home as a safety mechanism, they may be reluctant to embrace what appear to them to be outdated social practices in the homeland; for those at home, too close an identification with the homeland on the part of the diaspora risks encouraging returns: the loss of remittances and attendant conflicts over resources, particularly land.

Walker, I. (2012) ‘Comorians and Hadramis in the Western Indian Ocean: Diasporic Practices in a Comparative Context’, Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies, 38(3): 435-453