Swahili Port Cities

Swahili Port Cities : The Architecture of Elsewhere

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On the Swahili coast of East Africa, monumental stone houses, tombs, and mosques mark the border zone between the interior of the African continent and the Indian Ocean. Prita Meier explores this coastal environment and shows how an African mercantile society created a place of cosmopolitan longing. Meier understands architecture as more than a way to remake local space. Rather, the architecture of this liminal zone was an expression of the desire of coastal inhabitants to belong to places beyond their homeports. Here architecture embodies modern ideas and social identities engendered by the encounter of Africans with others in the Indian Ocean world.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 248 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 15.24mm | 20g
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 16 color illus., 80 b&w illus.
  • 025301915X
  • 9780253019158
  • 1,776,220

Table of contents

Introduction: The Place In-Between
1. Difference Set in Stone: Place and Race in Mombasa
2. A "Curious" Minaret: Sacred Place and the Politics of Islam
3. Architecture Out of Place: The Politics of Style in Zanzibar
4. At Home in the World: Living with Transoceanic Things
Conclusion: Trading Places
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Review quote

Meier's book Swahili Port Cities provides an invaluable and unique contribution to understandings of the complex history intertwining places, objects, and people along the littoral fringe of present-day Kenya and Tanzania. In so doing, it provides a solid foundation for scholars in any discipline investigating similar questions elsewhere. * H-AMCA * Swahili Port Cities is an original, well-researched, and nicely crafted reading of the architectural and urban histories of a rare East African Islamic universe and its related aesthetic ways, which are somewhat removed from the worlds of Middle Eastern Islam and its architecture. At the same time, this universe challenges our received constructions of things African. * Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians * Overall, Meier's text is beautifully written, comprehensive, and convincing. There are moments when her data seem slightly miscellaneous, but this is a particular challenge of interdisciplinary work. The text is of great value to scholars of East Africa in a number of fields, including archaeology, anthropology, history, and art history, and those interested in material culture and spatial studies more generally. * African Archaeological Review *
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About Prita Meier

Prita Meier is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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