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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Ms Anita Adam


Anita Adam
Ms Anita Adam
Email address:
Thesis title:
Benadiri People of Somalia, with Particular Reference to the Reer Hamar of Mogadishu
Year of Study:
Part-time study: 2004-2010 (successful viva: February 2011)
Internal Supervisors


I lived in Somalia for twenty five years, where I pursued a career in journalism, education and development work. My MEd is from Harvard University, and I have done consultancy work for the ILO, UNESCO, UNDP, IFAD, and a number of US and UK NGOs. I returned to the UK shortly before Somalia’s collapse into civil war, and began writing a series of Somali study materials for schools that were encountering increasing numbers of Somali refugee children. Concurrently I established a niche publishing company (HAAN) that concentrated on Horn of Africa material in the social sciences. After retiring from publishing I continued with freelance work and enrolled as a part time student at SOAS to pursue my doctoral research on the Benadiri people of southern Somalia. Having completed my thesis I hope now to proceed to publication.

PhD Research

The study is on the people known as Benadiri who live in a string of settlements along the southern coast of Somalia, and about their distinctive history and identity which have to date not been extensively covered in the literature on Somalia.

Chapter 1 is approached chronologically, providing an historical outline from sources, from the first century CE to the modern era. Historical references are supplemented by oral traditions and evidence from material culture. Geography and the influence of the monsoon trade on the coastal civilization are noted, including foreign intrusions, contacts, and migrations that have left their mark. Subsequent chapters are approached thematically. Mogadishu as the major settlement is taken as generally representative of Benadiri town culture, and is here given its locally-specific name of Hamar, its people being the Reer Hamar. Original material on lineage structure and descent patterns, and cultural expressions through festivals and ritual, has been gathered in the course of this research mainly from Benadiri in diaspora. It is supplemented by experiential data from my having previously lived among the people. The binary nature of the urban polity is discussed with reference to moieties, notions of descent, and social stratification. Also considered is the stone-town environment and its influence on the way the community sees itself in relation to others. Regarding religious life, community adherence to Islam and to Sufism is described, as are Sufist traditions of ‘sainthood’, and some local Islamic practices. New hagiographical material is presented on the late-Sheikh Abba al-Shashy, a leading theologian of the Mogadishu 'ulama. Finally, attention is given to the disintegration of the Somali state in 1991 and how the continuing turmoil has impacted on Benadiri people, creating a struggling community at home, and widespread displacement and dispersal into exile.