Prof. Dr. Kai Kresse

Vice Director

Phone: +49-(0)30-80307-230
Regional focus: Africa, especially East Africa and the Swahili coast, also Southern Africa; transregional connections, especially in the Indian Ocean; Muslim world

Recent Links

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

2019 Hamza Mustafa Njozi on Kai Kresse's "Swahili Muslim Publics and Postcolonial Experience"

Professor Hamza Mustafa Njozi(Vice Chancellor of the Muslim University of Morogoro) comments on Kai Kresse's book "Swahli Muslim Publics and Postcolonial Experience"(Indiana University Press 2018: African Edition: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers 2018; African edition: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam). Morogoro, Tanzania, May 2019.

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

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


08/2018 - Today
Vice Director, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, in combination with an "S-Professur" W3 ( = special professorship at a non-university research institute), 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
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 (183pp)

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’


  • Principal investigator at the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS), Freie Universität Berlin
  • Co-editor of the Journal "Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East" (Duke University Press)
  • Academic advisor for "Africa: Journal of the International African Institute" (Cambridge University Press), "Islamic Africa" (Brill), "Polylog: Zeitschrift für Interkulturelles Philosophieren" (Wien, fortdauernd) and the book series "Welten d. Philosophie

Selected Publications


2018, Swahili Muslim Publics and Postcolonial Experience in Coastal Kenya. Indiana University Press.

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.

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

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)

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.