The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800-1500

The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800-1500

The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800-1500

The Swahili: Reconstructing the History and Language of an African Society, 800-1500

Excerpt

The history of the Swahili has long been tangled in the web of their own and other people's perceptions and misperceptions of them. At its most extreme, they have been seen as cultural aliens, Caucasian Arabs who brought civilization to a primitive continent. Just as state formation across the continent was seen as the product of Hamitic (Caucasian) invaders from the north, so the Muslim trading towns of the eastern coast were seen as cultural transplants from the Arabian peninsula. This view is not simply racist; it also implies an understanding of history that sees all cultural innovation in Africa as the result of diffusion of peoples and ideas from elsewhere, thus denying African historical actors roles in their own histories.

Our intention is to cut through this web by combining modern techniques of African historians with recent discoveries relating to the Swahili to portray their history. For all the interest in the Swahili language, few have attempted to reconstruct its historical development. Only recently have archaeologists turned their attention to the indigenous peoples of the coast and started to reconstruct the ways in which coastal towns and societies developed. Historians have tended to accept Swahili traditions pointing to Arabian origins at face value without seeking to discover what the traditions mean to the people who relate them. Finally, anthropologists have only recently started mapping the full dimensions of Swahili society and culture and the ways these relate to those of their neighbors.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.