January 21, 2024

Zanzibar Was a Country (UC Press, 2024)

 My book comes out with University of California Press April 9, 2024.

"Zanzibar Was a Country explores the transregional impact of the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 through the historical memory of its exiles. Thousands of former citizens of Zanzibar and their offspring live in Oman and are a significant contemporary example of an Arab community that maintains a living connection to Africa in diaspora. These “Zanzibaris” (as they are often known in Oman) speak Swahili, sustain community originally formed in Africa, and continue to remember Zanzibar’s history as an independent country. Drawing on their life histories, their historiography of Zanzibar, and the archival traces of their migrations, Nathaniel Mathews demonstrates how these exiles were important to nation‑building and economic development in Oman."


January 9, 2024

On modern tactics of popular protest since the 1960s

 Andre 3000 had it right, "The game changes everyday so obsolete is the fist and marches. Speeches only reaches those who already know about it..."

Popular protest tactics in the US are still stuck in a 1960s hangover and suffering from a deficit of Alinsky-style strategic tactical thinking. Despite the diminishing returns of street actions in terms of real political gains, there is resistance to investigating the effectiveness of actions like blocking traffic, chanting slogans, pulling down statues, carrying signs, etc and instead pivoting to "well, at least we're doing something!" In part this is symptomatic of a broader multi-generational shift in the US, a wholesale erosion of civic institutions and the growth of hyper-individualism. There are fewer and fewer places where new tactics and strategies of civil disobedience might be born out of everyday community reflection. Instead protest has become something primarily confessional in nature, something one does to make oneself feel less complicit in injustice as an individual.
The question is what to do in this dismal interregnum and my answer would be to take the long view and try to preserve and renew existing bulwarks of community while building new spaces for people of different generations and backgrounds to come together in real life.


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