For more than a thousand years, people, ideas, and commodities have moved along an evolving cultural and commercial contact zone linking Stone Town (Zanzibar) and Muscat (Oman) to a wider Indian Ocean World. People have found work, community, status, and refuge. While African, Arab, Persian, Indian, and Chinese peoples have played particularly prominent roles in the history of the western Indian Ocean for nearly two thousand years, European aggression provided the impulse for Africans in the vicinity of Zanzibar to invite Omani Arabs to establish a form relationship, culminating in the incorporation of an East African community into an Omani Arab imperial stronghold. This OCS program explores the varied and complex historical interactions among Africans and Arabs moving between Zanzibar and Oman in the past and present. It highlights the role that these peoples have played in the development of a distinctive set of trading and familial networks, maritime and musical cultures, laboring and ruling classes, and migration patterns.
Through exploration of the content and design of archeological, museum, and other heritage sites and dialogue with scholars, artists, heritage practitioners, merchants, and pearl divers along the East African and Arabian coasts, this program offers deep and profound engagement with the past and present. Engage in comparative ethnographic study and writing. Participate in the performance of culture and practice of heritage. Question the ways that knowledge has and continues to be cultivated, disseminated, and internalized. The program offers a unique opportunity to study the ancient and living legacies of cultural and commercial contact between Africa and Arabia.