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Neither Immigrant nor Native: An Analysis of the Ethnic Identity of African Omanis

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  • 移民でもなく、ネイティブでもなく : アフリカ系オマーン人のエスニック・アイデンティティ
  • イミン デモ ナク ネイティブ デモ ナク アフリカケイ オマーンジン ノ エスニック アイデンティティ

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Abstract

<p>This paper explores the ethnic identity of the African Omanis or Zanjibaris, repatriated Omanis who enter the workforce as professionals in Oman. In particular, I discuss how the Zanjibari social category has been formed and represented in Omani society since 1970 in relation to native Omanis, and analyze their ethnic identity from the viewpoints of names, genealogy and blood. After the middle of 17th century, Oman's politics and people expanded into East Africa including Zanzibar Island. Many Omanis lived in Eastern and Central Africa until the Zanzibar revolution in 1964. However, as a result of this revolution, the accession of Sultan Qabus to the throne in 1970, as well as other factors, many Omanis in East Africa returned to their homeland of Oman. these Omanis played an important role in nation-building, which achieved modernization against a backdrop of petroleum revenue. These Omanis who claim a historical and social relationship with Africa are called Zanjibari(s) (meaning people of Zanzibar) in Oman, and form a distinct social category. Unlike normal migrants, African Omanis are "return migrants", who are differentiated not only in the place they emigrated to, but also in their homeland. In spite of their high level of education and professional positions, there is a distorted view of African Omanis because of the intertwining issues of genealogy, blood relations and ethnicity, all of which influence their identity. In chapter 2, I explain the historical relationship between Oman and Zanzibar as the reasoning behind the African Omanis being called Zanjibaris. In chapter 3, after I solidify the concepts of "African Omani" and Zanjibari, and their interrelationship, I examine the formation and representation of the social category called Zanjibari. In addition, I deal with the cultural elements which perpetuate the social boundary and which keep these two groups of Omanis separated. Although the term Zanjibari is often used in Omani daily life, African Omanis do not refer to themselves as such. Therefore, I use the term Zanjibari when discussing names as they are used by native Omanis, and the phrase "African Omani" when I describe these people objectively. The word Zanjibari indicates a social category created by native Omanis as a result of their contact with these Africa Omanis after 1970. In other words African Omanis are perceived as "Others", despite the fact that they are Omani nationals. The cultural characteristics which native Omanis use in order to differentiate themselves from African Omanis include their maternal blood, their knowledge of Swahili and their food culture. This is attributed to the fact that most African Omanis are of mixed blood, speak Swahili as their mother tongue, and prefer Swahili food. In chapter 4, by examining African Omanis' consciousness and their reaction toward being labeled Zanjibari by native Omanis, I consider the "Arabness" of their politics and identity. First, I categorize African Omanis' consciousness into two main types according to the results of my interviews: type A-those who express a self-consciousness of being Zanjibari, although they do not positively insist on their self-identity as Zanjibari ; type B-those who do not express a self-consciousness of being Zanjibari. Type B can be further divided into three groups: 1) those who insist that Zanjibari in the Omani context is not correct Arabic, and therefore, Zanjibaris to which native Omanis refer have never existed in Oman; 2) those who accept the existence of Zanjibaris but insist that they do not belong to this group themselves; and 3) those who admit that they are considered Zanjibaris, but deny that they themselves are actually Zanjibari. Then, I analyze these four assertions from the viewpoints of generation and blood. Type B-1 and 2 are not of mixed blood and belong to the younger generation,</p><p>(View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)</p>

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