In this paper, I argue that despite the general belief to the contrary, there is a great deal of continuity in the history of the colonial and post-colonial practice of citizenship in the Indian Ocean region. This debate is usually described from the perspective of the state and its representatives. Indeed, more often than not, the position of the migrants themselves is not discussed. This paper aims to fill this gap. In the case of the South Asians in East Africa, I will demonstrate that migrants were able to negotiate their own space for identity formation and accepting and changing formal citizenship options. Indeed, they were also able to negotiate with colonial officials and, after the 1960s, Britain, Canada, India and even the United Nations about defending their rights as citizens or agreeing new regulations for international migration and citizenship. The debate on citizenship and belonging has become the centre of academic and public debate since the 1990s in Europe and the USA. However, historical cases in colonial contexts might shed some light on long-term continuity in such discussions.

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Diaspora Studies
Department of History

Oonk, G. (2015). Gujarati Asians in east Africa, 1880-2000: Colonization, de-colonization and complex citizenship issues. Diaspora Studies, 8(1), 66–79. doi:10.1080/09739572.2014.959257