Between Obligation and Refuge. Emotional Place Attachment and Sayyida Sālme’s/Emily Ruete’s Migration to Germany


  • Katharina Krause MPhil student at University of Oxford



Informed by perspectives from Migration Studies and Emotional Geography, this article investigates the nexus between emotion, migration, and space and sets out a possible roadmap for future historiographical analyses of migrants’ place attachment. To this end, I engage the self-narratives of Sayyida Sālme bint Saʿīd/Emily Ruete as sources of an Omani Zanzibari individual’s experience in Germany during the late nineteenth century. I argue that the emotional reactions to her spatial and social environment in Germany were impacted by both its foreignness as well as prevalent contemporary Orientalist and racialized discourses. The ambiguous emotions triggered by her migration were mitigated by her German husband, who functioned as a translator of the new environment and customs, as well as her continued attachment to Zanzibar, which she reinforced through practices of remembrance and writing. Overall, her emotions towards Germany and Zanzibar mirrored the overarching colonial context in which they were felt in and, while being linked to certain material spaces and objects, were marked by their association with obligation to her husband and memories that misaligned with (spatial) reality. Her case and the analytical lens suggested in this article serve as a vignette for writing an aggregate emotional history of migration that broadens our understanding of the historical processes of global entanglement from below.