Mobile Households: The Intimate Economies of Obligation Across the Indian Ocean, c. 1860-1960


ACLS Fellowship Program




Tracing fragmented, but interconnected lives through multi-lingual archives in Tanzania, India, Oman, the United States, and Britain, Mobile Households is a trans-local and gendered micro-history of the modern western Indian Ocean. Existing scholarship on Indian Ocean commerce analyzes closed networks, the boundaries of which are defined by caste and religion. Foregrounding the quotidian and conceptual worlds of previously-silenced creole actors and households, this project interrogates the central concepts of kin and community and highlights the various forms of translation, conversion, and commensurability regulating exchanges across geographic, legal, and cultural divides. Thus, "Mobile Households" redraws historiographical boundaries; it illuminates historical connections that transcend continental divides, but also brings into conversation hitherto distinct conceptual frameworks from African and South Asian studies. In so doing, it argues that transformations in capital forms and flows, institutions, and moral economies in the modern global era were constituted at the intersection of the intimate and economic.