The Centre for the Study of Indian Diaspora, University of Hyderabad (UoH) organized a lecture on “Settled Strangers: Sian business elites in east Africa, 1800-2000” by Prof. Gijsbert Oonk on his latest book by the same name on October 31, 2013.
Prof Gijsbert Oonk is Head, Department of History at the Erasmus School of History, Culture & Communication, Rotterdam, Netherlands. His major interests include: business, migration and economic history. He is particularly interested in the role of South Asian (Indian) migrants and settlers in East Africa.
In his lecture, Prof. Gijsbert shared that Settled Strangers aim at understanding the social, economic and political evolution of the transnational migrant community of Gujarati traders and merchants in East Africa. The history of South Asians in East Africa is neither part of the mainstream national Indian History nor that of East African history writing, he added. Further Prof. Gijsbert says that this is surprising, because South Asians in East Africa outnumbered the Europeans with ten to one. Moreover, their overall economic contribution and political significance may be more important than the history of the colonizers, he pointed out.
The book Settled Strangers is an attempt to provide some balance in the form of a history of the South Asians in East Africa through the lens of the actors themselves. It studies the kind of social, economic and political adjustments the emigrant Gujaratis had to make in the course of this migration. By using insights from the social sciences, including concepts like cultural capital, family firm, transnationality middleman minorities and cultural change, this book aims to achieve a broader understanding of communities that do not belong to nations, yet are part of national states.
Prof. Gijsbert has also published a biography of the South Asian business family, Karimjee Jivanjee, The Karimjee Jivanjee family: Merchant princes of East Africa, 1800-2000 (Amsterdam 2009).