The Khōjā of Tanzania

Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity


The Khōjā of Tanzania, Discontinuities of a Postcolonial Religious Identity attempts to reconstruct the development of Khōjā religious identity from their arrival to the Swahili coast in the late 18th century until the turn of the 21st century. This multidisciplinary study incorporates Gujarati, Kacchī, Swahili, and Arabic sources to examine the formation of an Afro-Asian Islamic identity (jamatī) from their initial Indic caste identity (jñāti) towards an emergent Near Eastern imaged Islamic nation (ummatī) through four disciplinary approaches: historiography, politics, linguistics, and ethnology. Over the past two centuries, rapid transitions and discontinuities have produced the profound tensions which have resulted from the willful amnesia of their pre-Islamic Indic civilizational past for an ideological and politicized ‘Islamic’ present. This study aims to document, theorize, and engage this theological transformation of modern Khōjā religious identities as expressed through dimensions of power, language, space, and the body.
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Biographical Note

Iqbal Akhtar, Ph.D. (2013), Florida International University, is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and research director of the western Indian Ocean studies programme. He has published articles on American Muslim identity and East African Khōjā historiography, including the article Negotiating the racial boundaries of Khōjā caste membership in late 19th century colonial Zanzibar (1878-1899) in the Journal of Africana Religions. Currently, he is professeur invité at l'École des hautes études en sciences sociales (IISMM) in Paris.


For students and scholars interested in race, caste, religion, identity, and Islam in South Asia and East Africa as well as transnational connections within the Western Indian Ocean.