Songs from India and Zanzibar: Documenting the gulf in migration

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With a primarily South Asian population, including both middle-class families and ‘bachelors’, the Gulf states unsettle assumptions about the Middle East and South Asia developed from western area studies. This article examines three documentaries – From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf, Champ of the Camp and Sounds of the Sea – that layer visual images of the Gulf with songs from India and Zanzibar. They document the inequities and the ways in which vulnerable populations navigate them to find dignity in a world that often dismisses them as victims (e.g., exploited migrants, oppressed women) or uses them to legitimize segregation in allegedly overcrowded cities. They reconfigure documentary practice to allow subjects to speak indirectly, protecting them from possible retaliation or stigma. By documenting through nonwestern popular songs, these films contribute to a recovery of connections between South Asia, the Gulf and East Africa that were interrupted by British colonialism and US imperialism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-112
Number of pages22
JournalStudies in South Asian Film and Media
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Documentary film
  • Migrant labour
  • Migrant sailors
  • Persian Gulf
  • Songs
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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