Prof. Dr. Kai Kresse

Vice Director

Phone: +49-(0)30-80307-230
Regional focus: Africa, especially East Africa and the Swahili coast, also to Southern Africa; transregional connections, especially across the Indian Ocean and the Muslim world; open for projects to all regions.

Regular/recent events and relevant links

Berlin Anthropology Seminars (BAS), with IfSKA, FU-Berlin, and Ethnologisches Museum

Swahili Baraza Berlin (BALAKI-Be), with Dr. Lutz Diegner, IAAW, HU-Berlin

Working Group Thinkers and Theorizing from the South & co2libri, with FU-Berlin & HU-Berlin

2021 Webinar: Islands in a Cosmopolitan Sea: A History of the Comoros

2019 Review (videoclip): Prof. Hamza Mustafa Njozi (Muslim University Morogoro, Tanzania) on Kai Kresse's "Swahili Muslim Publics and Postcolonial Experience"


OtherFurther research projects and collaborations:


co2libri - Conceptual Collaboration: Living Borderless Research Interaction

RePLITO - Beyond Social Cohesion: Global Repertoires of Living Together


Prof. Dr. Kai Kresse
Prof. Dr. Kai Kresse


08/2018 - Today
Vice Director, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Professor at Institut für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie, Freie Universität Berlin
2012 - 2018
Associate Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies (MESAAS), African and Swahili Studies, Columbia University, New York
2006 - 2012
Vice Director, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin
Evans-Pritchard Lecturer, All Souls College, Oxford University
2002 - 2005
Lecturer, Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews

Academic Degrees

PhD, Anthropology & African Studies, SOAS, University of London Dissertation: ‘Approaching philosophical discourse in a Swahili context: theory, knowledge, and intellectual practice in Old Town Mombasa, 1998– 1999’
MSc, Social Anthropology, LSE, University of London Dissertation on Zulu praise poetry and its socio-regulative functions
Magister Artium (M.A.), Philosophy, University of Hamburg Minors: Afrikanistik (Swahili), German Literature Dissertation on Ernst Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms and its relevance for the project of an intercultural philosophy

Selected Publications


2018, Swahili Muslim Publics and Postcolonial Experience in Coastal Kenya. Indiana University Press. African edition 2019, Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota. Currently being translated into Swahili by W. Mkufya, for publication with Mkuki na Nyota


2007, Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam, and intellectual practice on the Swahili coast. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute.

Edited Volumes

2017, (Editor & translator) Guidance (Uwongozi) by Sheikh al-Amin Mazrui. Selections from the first Swahili Islamic newspaper. A Swahili-English edition. Translated with Hassan Mwakimako. Foreword by A. Mazrui and H. M.K. Mazrui. Series ‘African Sources for African History,’ Leiden: Brill.

2016, (Editor, with Rose Marie Beck) Abdilatif Abdalla: Poet in Politics. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki wa Nyota Publishers.

2009, (Editor, with Trevor Marchand) Knowledge in Practice: Expertise and the Transmission of Knowledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

2007/8, (Editor, with Edward Simpson) Struggling with History: Islam and Cosmopolitanism in the Western Indian Ocean. London: Hurst/New York: Columbia University Press.

2005, (Editor) Reading Mudimbe, special issue of Journal of African Cultural Studies, vol. 17/1 (with articles by W. van Binsbergen, N. Lazarus, L. Brenner, K. Kresse).

1997, Editor, with A. Graness. Sagacious Reasoning: H. Odera Oruka in memoriam. Frankfurt and New York: Peter Lang. 1999. African edition, by East African Educational Publishers, Nairobi.

Selected peer-reviewed Articles and Bookchapters

2016, ‘Kenya: Twendapi? Re-reading Abdilatif Abdalla’s pamphlet fifty years after Independence’ (with a translation of the Swahili original), Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 86(1), 1-32. (Read here)

2013, “On the skills to navigate the world, and religion, for coastal Muslims in Kenya“, in Magnus Marsden and Kostas Retsikas (eds), Articulating Islam: Anthropological Approaches to Muslim Worlds, Amsterdam: Springer Press, 77-99. (Read here)

2012, “Interrogating ‘cosmopolitanism’ in an Indian Ocean setting: Mombasa and the Swahili coast”, in D. Maclean and S.K. Ahmed (eds), Cosmopolitanism in Muslim Contexts: Models from the Past. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 31-50. (Read here)

2011, “Auf dem Weg zu mehr Interdisziplinarität und Zusammenarbeit bei der Erforschung der philosophischen Traditionen in Afrika”, in: Polylog: Zeitschrift fuer interkulturelle Philosophie, Vol. 25, 115-131. Vienna. (Read here)

2009, “Muslim politics in postcolonial Kenya: Negotiating knowledge on the double-periphery”, in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI). Special issue on anthropology of Muslim politics, edited by B. Soares and F. Osella, 76-94. (Read here)

2009, “Knowledge and intellectual practice in a Swahili context: ‘wisdom’ and the social dimensions of knowledge”, in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, vol. 79/1, 148-167. (Read here)


Selected further Publications

2011, ‘Between Africa and India: thinking comparatively across the western Indian Ocean’, ZMO Working Papers 5, 1-15. Co-authored with Edward Simpson. (Read here)

2011, “Enduring relevance: samples of oral poetry on the Swahili coast”, in Wasafiri: Journal of Contemporary Writing, special issue on Indian Oceans oral literatures (edited by Stephanie Jones), vol. 26/2, 46-49. (Read here)

2003, "'Swahili Enlightenment?' East African reformist discourse at the turning point: the example of Sheikh Muhammad Kasim Mazrui", Journal of Religion in Africa Vol.33 (3), special issue on Islamic thought in Africa, 279-309. (Read here)

2002, "Towards a postcolonial synthesis in African philosophy - conceptual liberation and reconstructive self-evaluation in the work of Okot p'Bitek", in O. Oladipo (ed), Issues in African Philosophy. Essays in honour of Kwasi Wiredu. Ibadan: Hope Publishers, 215-232. (Read here)

1998, "Izibongo - the political art of praising: poetical socio-regulative discourse in Zulu society", in Journal of African Cultural Studies, Vol. 12, No. 2, 171-196. (Read here)


A complete list of publications is available here (December 2018)

Supervised doctoral projects

PhD supervisor, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin:

Santram Antil, since June 2019; Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS), ‘Wrestling and body politics: sports in postcolonial North India’

Vincent Favier, since September 2018; Religion, Morality and Boko in West Africa: Students Training for a Good Life (Remoboko) ‘Preaching and Teaching: Religiosity, Knowledge and Performance among students and lecturers at West African universities’; funded by Leibniz

Yasmin Ismail, since October 2019; Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, ‘Brotherhood of Believers; Meaning making through a Global maktab System’

Lotte Knote, since January 2020; Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), ‘A feminist ecology of seaweed farming: gendered livelihood strategies in aquaculture in the Western Indian Ocean’; funded by Leibniz

Anna Helfer, since July 2020; ‘Zur Aktualität der Negritude in der Gegenwartskunst Dakars: Aneignungs- und Abgrenzungsprozesse als künstlerische Strategie einer dekolonialen Praxis‘


  • Principal investigator at the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS), Freie Universität Berlin
  • Contributing Editor of the Journal "Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East" (Duke University Press)
  • International Advisory Board member for "Africa: Journal of the International African Institute" (Cambridge University Press) 2011-2016, "Islamic Africa" (Brill) 2008-2013, "Polylog: Zeitschrift für Interkulturelles Philosophieren" (Wien, since 2010) and

Honours and Prizes (selected)

2015 - 2016
Senior Visiting Fellowship, Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS), Freie Universitaet Berlin
December 2009
Honourable Mention, in Elliot Skinner Award competition by the African Anthropology section of the American Anthropology Association (AAA) for the best anthropological monograph published in 2007-8, for Philosophising in Mombasa
September 2008
Honourable Mention, Herskovits Award for the best monograph on Africa published in 2007, by the African Studies Association (ASA) Committee PdfFile
November 2005
Evans-Pritchard Lectureship, All Souls College, Oxford; presented six lectures on ‘Swahili intellectual practice and everyday life: discourses of Islam and Muslim identity in postcolonial Mombasa’

Further Links

2019, History of Philosophy without any Gaps #26: Kai Kresse on the Anthropology of Philosophy

2010, Baraza-Events: Documentation of the series organized by Kai Kresse at the ZMO

2009, Terms of Analysis in African Studies: do we need 'Conceptual Decolonisation’? Roundtable Discussion with Kwasi Wiredu (Tampa), J.D.Y. Peel (London), Ute Luig (FU-Berlin), Katrin Bromber (ZMO-Berlin), Andreas Eckert (HU-Berlin), and Presentation by Kai Kresse (ZMO) - Audiodocumentation of the Complete Discussion

2008, „Swahili scholars, poetry and politics“, documentation of an evening organised by Kai Kresse at ZMO with Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir, an Islamic scholar and former politician, and the poet Ustadh Ahmad Nassir.