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Zanzibar's House of Wonders and Stone Town Coastline.jpg

Past Projects

Dissertation Research

Zanzibar 2015-26_edited.jpg

Please see more about the current directions and scholarly contributions of this project on the Current Research page

Project Funding Sources

  • Milton E. Muelder Award—2019-2020

    • MSU Department of History endowed award

    • $30,000

  • Fulbright Hays DDRA—2018

    • For twelve months of research in Oman, UK, and Tanzania

    • $43,200

  • Fulbright IIE US Student fellowship—2017

    • For eleven months of research in Tanzania

    • $23,000

An interview today ended with taking pictures—a friendly break from the usual routine!.jpg

(Im)mobility in a Sea of Migration: Race, mobilities, and transnational families in Zanzibar and Oman, ca 1850-2019


PhD Dissertation, 2021

When I first began research on this project, I expected to be writing about mobility. All of the reading I had previously done on transnational communities, such as the one in the Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar that was at the center of my own project, privileged a certain fluid mobility. I wrote confidently in a grant application at that time, "Scholars have imagined these connections to have been severed by the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, which precipitated the end of the Omani Sultanate of Zanzibar, and the subsequent merger with mainland Tanzania. However, numerous families continue to move, travel, and communicate between Zanzibar and Oman unto the present." This may be true, but what struck me the most when doing this research was the immobility of the vast majority of my informants. 

Here's a common scene from my research in Tanzania: I sit on the floor of Suleiman Hemed’s sitting room where he lives in the Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar. We are eating Omani dates and sipping Omani style coffee; a poster of the Omani Sultan hangs on the wall behind my head. “Have you ever been to Oman?” I ask, but Suleiman says no, not yet. Suleiman is a member of a transnational community that has formed through generations of circular migration between the Zanzibar archipelago and Oman. Despite his own immobility, connections to Oman are important in Suleiman’s daily life. This apparent paradox was not unique in my research, but rather the norm among my interviews.


Scholarship on international migration has frequently seen transnationalism as relatively uniform and inevitable in that people within a transnational community necessarily think and behave transnationally, yet I have observed a more uneven reality—members of the same community and even the same family have different access to and interest in mobility, transnational exchanges, and cosmopolitan identities. 


 I use oral history to construct biographical histories of non-elite actors. I demonstrate that these actors, though often immobile themselves, preserve transnational connections through the languages that they speak with their children, the foods they share with their neighbors, the clothes they wear, and the far-flung family members they keep in their address books.


I conducted 235 interviews in Swahili for this project. Additionally, I drew on archival research in Tanzania, Oman, and the UK. 

Masters Thesis

Conference Papers based on this research

“‘Upholding the Prestige of the Empire in Evening Dress’: Visual Culture of the White Female Body and Imperial Femininities among British Settlers in Interwar Kenya” at the Windy City Graduate Student History Conference, University of Illinois Chicago, November 2013


“Muscular Maternalism and the Memsahib in Colonial Kenya” at the MSU Africanist Graduate Student Research Conference, Michigan State University, October 2013

From Ruffles to Rifles: The Multifaceted Modern Woman as Imagined by British Settlers in Interwar Colonial Kenya


MA Thesis, 2013

My research has a longstanding emphasis on ways personal life and identities interact with societal power structures. 

My MA Thesis research centered ideologies of womanhood in colonial Kenya. Specifically, I used memoirs, novels, newspapers, fashion spreads, and household guides to examine the discourses of femininity among British women living in interwar Kenya. Ultimately, I argued that the multifaceted femininities of British settlers in colonial Kenya worked to uphold the racial hierarchies of the empire. 

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