This paper examines notions and practices of travel across the Indian Ocean in the second half of the twentieth century. It contrasts three regimes of imagining and managing travel between Oman and the island of Zanzibar, which before independence in 1963 had been a colony of Oman in the nineteenth century and then a British Protectorate of the Omani Sultanate in the first half of the twentieth century. First, it examines debates about prayer practices and the concerns they reflect about belonging, theocratic rule, and home among Omani settlers in Zanzibar. Second, it looks at British colonial attempts to regularize citizenship and subjecthood as well as to limit the mobility of Omani settlers. Finally, it explores contemporary accounts of spirit assisted human flying and the possibilities of travel they envision. Rather than seeing these three modes or regimes of travel as distinct alternatives, Limbert emphasizes their co-presence in shaping debates about national boundaries and history. Each regime has shifted the markers and constitution of loyalty, sovereignty, and social affinity in the Indian Ocean.
Mandana E. Limbert received her Ph.D. in Anthropology and Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan in 2002 and joined the Queens College (CUNY) faculty the same year. She became a member of the faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center in 2007. She has also been a fellow and visiting scholar at The University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender (1999-2000), New York University’s Center for Near Eastern Studies (2000-2001), the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (2001-2002), and Duke University’s Department of Cultural Anthropology (2008-2010). She was a member of faculty of the History department at North Carolina State University (2009-2010). In addition to numerous articles, Professor Limbert has co-edited Timely Assets: The Politics of Resources and their Temporalities (2008), published by the School of American Research, Advanced Seminar Series. Her book, In the Time of Oil: Piety, Memory, and Social Life in an Omani Town (2010), was published by Stanford University Press. And, with support of a grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the City University of New York, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor Limbert has begun writing her next book, “Oman, Zanzibar, and the Politics of Becoming Arab” on changing notions of Arabness in Oman and Zanzibar over the course of the twentieth century.