African communities in Asia and the Mediterranean

Publication Year



Edited by Ehud R. Toledano, Ph.D. 1979

The undeniable presence of the past and its cultural vestiges in the daily lives of displaced populations has been a noticeable feature of diasporas across the globe. The world of spirits and the need to keep in constant touch with them have been part and parcel of almost all pre-modern cultural systems, African ones being a prominent case in point. There can hardly be any doubt that coerced displacement and forced migration of enslaved populations from Africa into many parts of the world was a traumatic experience, and Africans in the diasporic communities of the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean Worlds had frequent and intense recourse to significant components of their origin-cultures. They used that cultural dialogue as a means to alleviate the stress caused of being uprooted and forcibly moved into new, alien societies, into which they had to be absorbed and integrated.

The study of migration and diasporas has become increasingly fashionable in recent years, partly because it has clear political implications to contemporary concerns in many societies that had been the target of forced, semi-voluntary, or voluntary migration. Of particular relevance to the current volume is the heritage of enslaved persons and their descendents, well past manumission, who had to cope with social, economic, and political disabilities sanctioned by law and practice. Generations after emancipation, these men and women still have to negotiate their own identities, confront discrimination by the state and from other social groups, and fight for basic rights. Colonialism and enslavement, for the most part, affected views and social practices that had a detrimental impact not only upon Africans in non-African societies, but have also profoundly transformed majority cultures and dominant value-systems.

The chapters in this volume do not deal with the Atlantic world, where the study of forced migration, enslavement, and diasporas has attracted much scholarly interest that has produced a large body of literature. Instead, the contributors concentrate their efforts on the less studied regions of the globe—the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds. They do not seek here to resolve the “two-models dispute,” but rather hope that the studies presented in this volume will, in and of themselves, help establish a clearer understanding of the differences and similarities that existed between the types, modes, and practices of enslavement in those wide geographical spaces. Still, their main goal in this project aims to bring to the fore a sound statement, which is both empiric and grounded in theory, about processes of identity construction, or identification, among uprooted Africans and their descendants in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds.


African diasporas in Asia and the Mediterranean : a methodological introduction -- "African diaspora" and "creolity" : confronting the two concepts and their references -- Female bondage and agency in the Indian Ocean world -- Diversity of experience and legacies of African slavery in the western Indian Ocean -- African cavalry guards : a place for the construction of memory, identity and ethnicity -- Jews in Siddi Janjira -- "Black face, white heart; long live the king" : the ambiguous identity of the African soldiers in the Dutch East Indies army -- Unauthorised voyagers across two oceans : Africans, Indians and Aborigines in Australia -- The stambali of Tunis : its origins and transculturation from a secret-possession cult to ethno-religious and national culture in Ḥusaynid Tunisia -- Coping with trauma in a new world : cultural response of enslaved Africans in the Ottoman Empire -- Liberated bodies and saved souls : freed African slave girls and missionaries in Egypt -- The pupil of the eye : abolitionism, racial unity, and the iconography of enslaved Africans in Baha'i tradition -- "The Jewish rabbis have stopped protecting us, and the bad witches from home enter" : African migrant workers in Israel trapped between the extended family, money and witchcraft -- Construction of identity and integration of Turks of African descent.rriet Tubman series on the African diaspora

Series Title
The Harriet Tubman series on the African diaspora
Africa World Press
Trenton, NJ
9781592218509; 9781592218516