Songs from India and Zanzibar: Documenting the Gulf in migration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


With primarily South Asian population, both middle-class families and ‘bachelors’, Gulf states unsettle assumptions about the Middle East and South Asia developed from western area studies. This paper 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 inequities and ways that vulnerable populations navigate them to find dignity in a world that often dismisses them as hapless victims (e.g., exploited migrants, oppressed women) or uses them for 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 U.S. imperialism.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91–112
JournalStudies in South Asian Film and Media
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019


  • documentary film
  • Hindi songs
  • South Asian migration
  • Persian Gulf
  • Transnationalism

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