Limbert’s essay explores the notion of Arabness. It argues that Indian Ocean experiences, histories, and debates present an alternative perspective to the one dominant in Egypt, Iraq, and the Levant. In particular, it suggests that even as late as the twentieth century, Arabness in the Arabian Peninsula and Indian Ocean circuit, which had a different history from that of Northern Arabia, was conceived more as a caste-like or class notion than an ethnic or racial one. Certainly, at specific moments and in particular contexts, there is overlap between the caste and ethnic notions and, certainly, neither should be considered essential to identity in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Limbert contends, it is through attention to the Middle East’s margins—that is, in this case, the Indian Ocean—that we might better understand the various meanings of, and shifts in, the notion of Arabness.

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