Tanzania. Modern slavery, interethnic relations, and group perception of Arabs

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Senior Research Fellow of the Center of History and Cultural Anthropology, Institute for African Studies RAS
Affiliation: Institute for African Studies RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameAsia and Africa Today
EditionIssue 5

The paper highlights the results of field research, conducted by the author in Tanzania in 2018-2019 and focused on the perception and memories of Arab-Swahili slave trade of 19th century and its influence on nowadays interethnic relations in the country. Local notions of Tanzanian “Arabs” and Afro-“Tanzanians” are commented.

Reports about modern human trafficking are presented, the stories how Tanzanians, usually young women, are being lured to Arabic countries by promises of job and better life. However after reaching the destination point they end up working as prostitutes or are engaged in forced sexual relations with men in the house, which they were supposed to clean and take care of. Some stories are focused on backbreaking work or violence.

Due to the fact that people from Arabic countries are engaged in these activities, respondents point out that such stories influence the attitude toward Tanzanian Arabs, their group perception and general “image of Arabs”. This generalized “image of Arabs” is a concept based on historical memories about Arab domination in Zanzibar and East Africa in the 19thcentury and earlier, as representatives of Zanzibar’s Oman dynasty became the main actors and beneficiaries of slave trade in the region.

Transfer of the past impression into the present promotes perception of the modern slavery of Tanzanians in Arabic countries as a negative factor in the attitude towards Tanzanian Arabs. Moreover, modern human trafficking is conceptualized as the continuation of 19th century slave trade, as the slave trade never ended, it continues to exist in other ways. This deteriorates interethnic relations in the country.

KeywordsTanzania, modern slavery, interethnic relations, Arabs, group representation
AcknowledgmentThe work was carried out within the framework of the RFBR grant 20-09-00361 "Cultural memory of the Arab slave trade of the XIX century and its impact on interethnic relations in modern Tanzania ”.
Publication date28.05.2021
Number of characters25368
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