Diasporic Longings and Belongings in the Indian Ocean

Term: Fall 2011

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6260

Borrowing the phrase "longings and belongings" from anthropologist Peter van der Veer, this course looks at diasporic subjectivities as ambiguities of difference, as a way of being in the world that is open to anthropological interpretation and analysis. We will attend to distinct diasporic communities situated within the Indian Ocean world through a case study approach. Here water becomes a conduit for the flow of people, things and ideas in multiple directions. We will also look at how the idea of diaspora fits within transnational and cosmopolitan studies, including readings by Steven Vertovec, Ulf Hannerz, Mamadou Diouf, and Sheldon Pollack. We start with Amitav Ghosh's In An Antique Land in order to look at early modern Jewish and slave diasporas circulating in the Indian Ocean. Still other diasporas are also of "long duration," as Engseng Ho argues for the Hadrami Yemeni who continue to inhabit an Indian Ocean Muslim world as local cosmopolitans. Next we look at the Goan (Indian) diaspora in Mozambique - they live within a Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking, Catholic) context while maintaining tender ties across the ocean. We then open up to explore additional South Asian communities scattered along the East African littoral. The Siddi (African) in India is an unusual case study that we will also delve into. Lastly, we will explore the Portuguese South African community as yet another unusual case of diasporic longing and belonging. We will also raise methodological concerns by opening the archive beyond life history and (auto)biography to include other source materials (such as gravestones, poetry, religious and legal documents) in writing ethnographies of oceanic diasporas.

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