This article examines the two instances of concubinage (suria) during the Omani rule of Zanzibar and the Ndoa Za Karume Forced Marriage Act that followed the revolution in 1964 on the island. Both practices can be seen as laboratories in which the complexities of sex and power were in full display. Throughout, the author draws inspiration from anthropologist Tim Ingold's theory of human correspondence alongside valuable insights from the intersection of black feminist thought and humanistic anthropology to deepen our understanding of both concubinage and forced marriage as forms of sexual bondage occurring within particular political circumstances and historical realities. For indeed, both objectifying practices assumed a variety of meanings in colonial and postrevolutionary Zanzibar. When conjugating suria and ndoa within the complex grammar of race, class, and gender, we also often encounter inconsistencies inherent in fraught human relationships and furthered by the marked fluidities and slippages of both practices and their varying connotative, pragmatic, and ideational significances. Was the Ndoa za Karume an act of retribution against concubinage? Or was it a contribution to a nation-building project in a society adrift? To consider these questions, the article draws on a variety of ethnographic insights gathered in Zanzibar and Oman between 2016 and 2019 and a constellation of texts, including archives, local historiographies, a collection of Swahili statements for and against ndoa possessed by an interlocutor, memoirs, and other field notes gathered in 2020–21. The article explores what was at stake in these two parallel modes of exploiting women's bodies, arguing that they cannot be understood in isolation from their “correspondences” and the emotionality manifested in both gendered social dramas.

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