People of Hadhrami descent are found all over Malaysia as well as across the Indonesian archipelago and in Singapore, not to mention on the coasts of the Indian Ocean and in the Gulf. Their migrations were particularly significant from the 1860s on, though some travelled to the archipelago well before then to become traders, teachers, gem dealer, shipowners, horse dealers, perfume sellers and later real estate brokers and investors, merchants, money men and local notables. Some sayyids became noted religious figures, sometimes rajahs of small states. Michael Gilsenan will discuss their contemporary significance in the region, asking what it means to speak of 'Arab identity' in different contexts and how long patterns of movement have influenced family identity and inheritance over the recent generations.
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