Securing the Present, Unsettling the Past: Trade and Control on the Swahili Coast


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation is an ethnographic and archival study of the articulation between Indian Ocean trade networks on the East African coast, the Kenyan nation-state, and the international order. Since the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam by Al-Qaeda, the Swahili coast of Kenya has become a flashpoint for national and international security. These security concerns are ultimately linked to an anxiety over the coast’s long history of trade in the Indian Ocean. This project analyzes attempts to make Indian Ocean trade networks in East Africa legible to state power and the response of merchants, sailors, and residents who rework these networks in the shadow economy, suggesting that this articulation has led to increasing insecurity for both government and coastal residents.