Steven Fabian, "Making Identity on the Swahili Coast: Urban Life, Community, and Belonging in Bagamoyo" (Cambridge UP, 2019)


Manage episode 280015802 series 2421449
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Situated at a crossroads of trade in the late nineteenth century, and later the economic capital of German East Africa, the thriving caravan and port town of Bagamoyo, Tanzania is one of many diverse communities on the East African coast which has been characterized as 'Swahili'.

In Making Identity on the Swahili Coast: Urban Life, Community, and Belonging in Bagamoyo (Cambridge UP, 2019), Steven Fabian combines extensive archival sources from African and European archives alongside fieldwork in Bagamoyo to move beyond the category of 'Swahili' as it has been traditionally understood. Revealing how townspeople - Africans, Arabs, Indians, and Europeans alike - created a local vocabulary which referenced aspects of everyday town life and bound them together as members of a shared community, this first extensive examination of Bagamoyo's history from the pre-colonial era to independence uses a new lens of historical analysis to emphasize the importance of place in creating local, urban identities and suggests a broader understanding of these concepts historically along the Swahili Coast in the Indian Ocean World.

Dr. Steven Fabian is a former associate professor of history at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He was President of the Tanzania Studies Association from 2015 to 2017 and currently serves as co-chair of Radical History Review. Dr. Fabian is currently a teacher of African and world history at Horace Mann School in New York City. His book Making Identity on the Swahili Coast is a 2020 Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize finalist, awarded by the African Studies Association.

Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.

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