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Ughaibu, in Swahili, describes a state of being absent, or missing, a state of unobtainability and remoteness. Paired with the locative ‘-ni’, ughaibuni translates as ‘diaspora’. The concept of diaspora was recently put at the centre of a policy issued by the government of Zanzibar in 2017. In The Diaspora Policy of Zanzibar the ‘Zanzibar Diaspora’ refers to ‘people originating from Zanzibar who are residing in foreign countries but maintain patriotism to their homeland, recognize the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution as the basis for the liberation of Zanzibar people and respect the laws and constitution of Zanzibar.’ It is considered ‘of vital importance that such people remain patriotic and demonstrate a sense of belonging, desire and commitment to support socio-economic development of Zanzibar’ (p. 8).
Drawing on conversations with young Zanzibaris who live with absence, or in diasporic situations, conducted between 2018-2019, in this article I argue that exploring specifically the movement of young people can enrich our understanding of what the ‘Zanzibar Diaspora’ may be. By thinking with diaspora as ‘absence’ I take into consideration the accounts of young Zanzibaris, who negotiate absences both within Zanzibar itself and between Zanzibar and Oman, and show that their own concepts of diasporic belonging go beyond the political limitations expressed in the policy. In both cases ‘going absent’ becomes a present-making and future- building strategy that helps young Zanzibaris navigate stagnation.
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