Fractures and Continuities in Understanding Diasporic, Racial and Religious Identities in India: A Study of Siddi and Hadrami Diaspora in Hyderabad, India

Author Name

Khatija Sana Khader

Author Address

PhD Candidate, International Politics Division, Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-110067, India, Phone: +91-9711177620, Email: [email protected]


Diaspora; Indian Ocean; South Asia; Hyderabad; Hadrami; Siddi; Race; Islam; Economic Marginalisation; Political Representation


This paper intends to engage with two diasporic communities – Siddis and Hadramis, in the city of Hyderabad, India, from the colonial period to postcolonial times. Siddis are black Africans who came to India as slaves from the East African coast. Hadramis hail from the Red Sea region of Hadramawt, Yemen. Migration from Hadramawt was voluntary and for the purposes of trade, religious and military activities. The Hadramis were instrumental in spreading Islam along the Indian Ocean and in weaving complex networks of kinship and economic relationships along its ports and cities. This study charts out the changes in the social and economic status of these communities as they lost the patronage of the Asaf Jahi state and elites in the Princely State of Hyderabad, which for example had allowed Hadrami families like Al Quaiti, Al Awlaqi and Al Kathiri to finance and establish the Al Quaiti and the Al Kathiri sultanates in Hadramawt. In modern India, politically underrepresented, economically marginalised and educationally backward, these communities allow for an engagement with different notions of racial, religious and diasporic identity formation that existed in the eighteenth century networks of diasporic mobility in the Indian Ocean. Further, they enable a constructive engagement with how identities are realised in multiethnic, multilingual and religiously and racially diverse modern postcolonial societies like India. Concentrated as these communities are in the city of Hyderabad, their invisibility today is more a product of a modern nation’s limited identity articulations than a reflection of their contributions in the making of Hyderabad’s cosmopolitan past. By focusing on the ‘everyday’ as a site of enquiry this study probes into the continuous process of identity formation and boundaries making, meanings/subjectivities that we create to make sense our contexts and makes apparent hierarchies of domination and strategies of subversion. This paper will draw on fieldwork done in the neighbourhoods of African Cavalry Guards (A C Guards) and Barkas (a colloquial spin on the English word ‘Barracks’) in Hyderabad, where most Siddis and Hadramis reside respectively.


International Conference on Migration, Diaspora and Development
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