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Sidis in Mumbai: Negotiating Identities between Mumbai and Gujarat

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

In this essay, I discuss issues of identity within the context of social and economic circumstances of the Sidi1 community in Mumbai. I argue that the Sidis who work as caretakers of shrines in Mumbai are accorded dignity and status from the community of devotees who are often from the Muslim, Hindu and Parsi Zoroastrian communities. Those Sidis who are dispersed in different parts of the city and who work as domestics in the homes of middle class Muslim or Hindu families, on the other hand, merge into the nameless toiling masses of the city of Mumbai. Most of these Sidis work in low-income jobs and live in one or two room shanty dwellings. Part of my enquiry also raises the question of home and belonging for the Sidi community. Where do Sidis locate home and how do they construct belonging in India? Finally, I conclude my essay by examining a very different Sidi presence in Mumbai, that of the descendants of the royal family of the Sidis of Janjira (an island off the coast of Mumbai) who live in the upper middle class area of Mumbai. I discuss how the descendants of the Sidis of Janjira construct identity in terms of class and privilege.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-6900, USA, Email:


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