Gujarati-Muslims in India and South Africa:

Performing Muslim Identities in the Indian Ocean world 

abstract  | keywords and concepts  |  links and literature  |  researcher


The communities of Sunni Bohras in Gujarat and South Africa, amongst whom I plan to do ethnographical research, form examples of the transnational and complex ties of religious and political phenomena in the globalized modern age. The project aims at a critical examination of these ties and the concept(s) of modernity in general. With social science’s theories oriented towards a broader comparative approach the globalisation of religions in both the public and the private spheres shall be scrutinized. As regards these religious and political phenomena they shall be looked at in consideration of the gender discourses applied to Bohra communities.

  • Read the full project outline
  • Report on the conference „Identities: Reflections on Global Gujarati Communities“, University of Toronto 2008

Keywords and concepts

Sunni Bohras, Migration, Diaspora, Modernity, Gender discourses

Links and literature

  • Basu, Helene 2007: Ethnologie des Islam. Unveröffentlichte Inaugurationsvorlesung an der WWU Münster.
  • Bhana, Surendra und Joy Brain (1990): Setting Down Roots. Indian Migrants in South Africa, 1860-1911. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg.
  • Deshpande, Satish (2003): Modernization. In: Das, Veena (ed.) The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology. Oxford Univ. Press, New Delhi, pp. 63-98
  • Daniels, Doria (2007): South Africa. In: Suad, Joseph, (ed.): Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures. Vol. 5. Brill, Boston & Leiden, pp. 118-120.
  • Ebr.-Vally, Rehana (2001a): Kala Pani. Caste and Colour in South Africa. Kwela Books; Kapstadt.
  • ____________ (2001b): Diversity in the imagined Umma: the example of Indian Muslims in South Africa. In: Zegeye, Abebe (Hg.): Social Identities in the new South Africa. Kwela Books; Kapstadt. S. 269-300.
  • Franco, Fernando, Jyotsna Macwan & Suguna Rmanathan (2007): Marriage, Sexuality and Motherhood. In: Menon, Nivedita (ed.): Sexualities. Women Unlimited, New Delhi, pp. 141-174
  • Gupta, Charu (2001): Sexuality, Obscenity, Community. Women, Muslims, and the Hindu Public in Colonial India. Palgrave; New York
  • Hermansen, Marcia (2007): Quran – modern interpretations – South Asian Languages. In: : Suad, Joseph, (ed.): Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures. Vol. 5. Brill, Boston & Leiden, pp. 258-262.
  • Jain, Prakash C. (1999): Indians in South Africa. Political economy of race relations. Kalinga Publications, Delhi.
  • Klein, Gary D. (1990): Sojourning and ethnic solidarity: Indian South Africans. In: Ethic Groups, Vol.8, S. 1-13.
  • Kosambi, Meera (2007): Crossing Thresholds. Feminist Essays in Social History. Permanent Black, Ranikhet.
  • Lambat, Ismail A. (1985): Marriage among the Sunni Surati Vohras of South Gujarat. In: Imtiaz Ahmad (ed.) Family, Kinship and Marriage among Muslims in India. Manohar, New Delhi pp. 49-81.
  • Loo, Hans van der und Willem van Reijen (1997): Modernisierung. Projekt und Paradox. DTV; München. 2., aktualisierte Auflage. [Orig. 1990: Paradoxen van modernisering. Een socialwetenschappelijke benadering. Verlag Dick Coutinho; Muiderberg.] Marranci, Gabriele (2008): The Anthropology of Islam. Berg; Oxford.
  • Meer, Fatima (1969): Portrait of Indian South Africans. Avon House, Durban.
  • Menon, Nivedita ed. (2007): Sexualities. Women unlimited, New Delhi.
  • Misra, Satish C. (1964): Muslim Communities in Gujarat. Preliminary Studies in their history and social organizations. Asia Publishing House, London.
  • Munshi, K.G. (1997): Socio-economic profile of Indian Muslims. A Case Study of Gujarat. Institute of Objective Studies, Neu Delhi.
  • Nandy, Ashis (1975) : Sati : A Nineteenth Century Tale of Women, Violence and Protest. In: Joshi, V.C. (ed.): Rammohun Roy and the Process of Modernization in India. Vikas, Delhi et al., pp. 168-194
  • Parameshwar Gaonkar, Dilip (2001): Alternative Modernities. Duke University Press;
  • Ramamurthi, T.G. (1995): Apartheid and Indian South Africans. A Study of the Role of Ethnic Indians in the Struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. Reliance Publishing House, New Delhi.
  • Vahed, Goolam (2005): Passengers, Partnerships, and promissory notes: Gujarati Traders in colonial Natal, 1870-1920. In: International Journal of African Historical Studies 38,3: 449 – 479.
  • ____________ (2001): Mosques, Mawlanas and Muharram: Indian Islam in Colonial Natal. 1860-1910. In: Journal of Religion in Africa, XXXI, 3; 305-335.


Julia Koch studied Ethnology, Communication and Mediaveal History in Münster and Paris (EHESS). She wrote her comparative M.A. thesis in Ethnology on Ritual Buffaloe Killings in South East Asia. Now she is member of the Graduate School of the Cluster of Excellence "Relgion and Politics in pre-modern and modern Cultures" with a Ph.D. project on Gujarati Muslims in India and South Africa. Performing Muslim identities in the Indian Ocean (working title).