Personal Profile

My research is framed by two intersecting ethnographic and theoretical orientations. Ethnographically my primary field site is the Comoro Islands, where I have been working on Ngazidja for almost thirty years and on Mayotte more recently. My secondary (geographically dispersed) site is that part of the Hadrami diaspora that is found on the western Indian littoral, from the Gulf states in the north to Madagascar in the south, and, sometimes, a little inland. My hypothesis here is that the Hadrami diasporic community has a cohesiveness and a shared sense of identity that extends across spaces, and places, even if this shared identity is sometimes more imagined than real.

Theoretically I find most things in the Comoros interesting––space and place, marriage rituals or slavery and servility in Ngazidja, for example––but, again, my specific interests lie in questions of identity, both diasporic ones (with particular reference to Hadramis, of course, even in the Comoros) and more locally emplaced ones. Thus, my recent and ongoing work on the conflicts between Maorais and Wandzuani on Mayotte, the accompanying expressions, or disavowals, of French or Comorian identity, and the conflicts, physical, social and conceptual, that these expressions of identity engender. Having spent several years working on these issues on Mayotte, I now turn my attention to intra-Comorian relationships on the islands of Ndzuani and Ngazidja, and particularly between Maorais (however they may be defined) and others.

Why Anthropology now?

Anthropology's contributions to local dialogues are important in facilitating different perspectives on matters of public concern, the common worries that our interlocutors share. Anthropologists from the different islands, as well as foreigners from France or, such as myself, elsewhere, contribute collectively to debates and discourses in public forums on all the islands, thus both disseminating knowledge and encouraging public engagement.

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