Prita Meier

Oct 5, 2020

Swahili Port Cities

The Architecture of Elsewhere

Indiana University Press 2016

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On the Swahili coast of East Africa, monumental stone houses, tombs, and mosques mark the border zone between the interior of the African continent and the Indian Ocean. In Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere (Indiana University Press), Prita Meier explores this coastal environment and shows how an African mercantile society created a place of cosmopolitan longing.

Meier understands architecture as more than a way to remake local space. Rather, the architecture of this liminal zone was an expression of the desire of coastal inhabitants to belong to places beyond their homeports. Here architecture embodies modern ideas and social identities engendered by the encounter of Africans with others in the Indian Ocean world.

Prita Meier is Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art History, and the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. She co-edited with Allyson Purpura World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts across the Indian Ocean (Krannert Art Museum, 2017).

Co-hosted with Jenny Peruski a Ph.D. student at Harvard University, Department of History of Art and Architecture. Her research focuses on ornamentation and bodily adornment in coastal Eastern Africa. She can be reached by email at

Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.

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