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The University of Southampton
Humanities Graduate School

Ayan Salaad

I hold a BA in English from Queen Mary, University of London and an MA in African Studies from SOAS, University of London. Research for my BA and MA has laid the foundations for this project into National and diasporic identity in Western Indian Ocean literature.

Ayan Salaad

I have studied contemporary African literature in depth, examining the ways this literature negotiates ideas of home and travel, and way that Africa is presented both locally and globally. I have also engaged with critical theories and histories of the Indian Ocean in my study of literary depictions of the diasporic experience which has exposed me to theorists who interrogate  ideas of a ‘nation-state’ and placed emphasis on cultural flows,  internal migration, and the negotiation of difference as an instrumental part of human history.

My project will focus on the ways in which national and diasporic identity is constructed in the literature of coastal communities, and in particular the Banaadiri community, who live on the Somali coast. I will firstly examine the ways in which the cross-cultural exchange that occurred as a result of the Indian Ocean maritime trade network informs the way that identity is negotiated in literature by these littoral communities. In addition I will also explore the way that different forms of transnationalism are presented in literature from these coastal communities and the ways in which an Indian Ocean regional identity may interact with more local identities (ethnic, civic and national). This project will also consider the ways in which Somali writers in the diaspora discuss the Indian Ocean maritime world in their literature and the ways that this may challenge traditional coastal communities’ literary portrayal of the Indian Ocean. In addition, I will examine the tensions and intricacies that come from comparing Somali literature which has been written in English in comparison to oral Somali literature.

This study will frame, and in turn be framed, by globalist theorists such James Clifford, Avtar Brah, Ajun Appadurai, Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall in order to explore the ways that literature from littoral communities explore ideas of national and diasporic identity. These theorists have challenged classical anthropology which has traditionally studied people as coterminous with place, as distinct, bounded culture. Rather than assuming cultural difference to be spatially determined, these theorists assert that we need to understand how cultural difference is made in shared spaces. These theorists are significant to this project because their ideas resonate with the Indian Ocean maritime trade network which was characterised by constant movement of people, objects and ideas and cross-cultural exchange.

Key facts

Ayan's supervisors are Dr Stephanie Jones (Southampton) and Prof Alison Donnell (Reading).

You can contact Ayan at

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