Arab Diasporas in Geopolitical Spaces

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Cahiers d’Études africaines


This article argues that imperial geopolitical contestations were important for the transnational existence of Muslim diasporas of Djibouti during the interwar years (1919-1939). The author examines global geopolitical processes as part of his analysis of diasporic formation in the region. Contemporary studies of the Indian Ocean have viewed diasporas as creating connections between Oceanic systems and focused on discourses, networks, genealogy and cosmopolitanism to explain transnational existence.

While the study of diasporas through these lenses is a legitimate point of departure, this article shows how geopolitical contestations at the global level place the region’s Muslim community in a different and broader geographical scale of existence. This article examines how Arab Muslim diasporas adopted the language of empires to express political aspirations. It also demonstrates how, through the formation of associations, diasporas engaged with the geopolitical game between competing European colonial powers. Because members of Arab Muslim diasporas were not free agents, living as they were under colonial occupation, geopolitical contestations of empire structured the lives of Muslim Arabs in colonial Djibouti.

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