Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter/innen










Prof. Dr. Kai Kresse

Academic Degrees | Honours and Prizes | Publications | Further Links

Kai Kresse
is Vice-Director for Research at ZMO, and Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. He recently joined ZMO from FU and Columbia University, where he was Associate Professor of African and Swahili Studies in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies (MESAAS). He received his PhD from SOAS, University of London, in Anthropology and African Studies in 2002, after studying Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics (MSc 1997) and Philosophy, African Studies and German Literature at the University of Hamburg (MA 1996). He was Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews, and formerly already a Fellow and Vice-Director for Research at ZMO (2006-2012). In 2005, he was Evans-Pritchard Lecturer at All Souls College, Oxford. He is also a Principal Investigator at the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies (BGSMCS) at FU Berlin.


He has conducted anthropological fieldwork on the Swahili coast, working on local thinkers (poets, scholars, activists), the transmission and negotiation of knowledge, and the production and interpretation of texts, with a focus largely on internal debates among coastal Muslims in post-colonial Kenya. His research engages with philosophy, history, and religion, and begins to explore the trans-regional Indian Ocean connections that have shaped East African coastal society. His monograph 
Philosophising in Mombasa (2007) was shortlisted for the Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association; a second monograph, Swahili Muslim Publics and Post-colonial Experience, is in production with Indiana University Press.

Among his further research interests are hermeneutics, social theory, African philosophy and intercultural philosophy. He has also published on Ernst Cassirer, and on African philosophers, such as Henry Odera Oruka, V.Y. Mudimbe, Kwasi Wiredu and Okot p’Bitek. His academic translations from Swahili include Uwongozi (Guidance), a selection of Islamic educational essays written by Sheikh al-Amin Mazrui (together with Hassan Mwakimako), and the pamphlet 'Kenya: Twendapi?' (Kenya: where are we heading?) by Abdilatif Abdalla. Translations from English to German include articles by Henry Odera Oruka, Ali A. Mazrui, and Amartya Sen, for the online journal Polylogy.

He is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (Duke University Press), and has served on the editorial advisory boards of Africa: Journal of the International African Institute (Cambridge University Press), Islamic Africa (Brill), Polylog: Zeitschrift fuer Interkulturelles Philosophieren (Vienna, continuing) and the book series Welten der Philosophie (Alber Verlag, continuing).

His teaching experience includes courses in Social and Anthropological Theory, Anthropology of Religion, East African Ethnography, Research Methods, Religion in Africa, Continental and African Philosophy, Anthropology and Philosophy, and Swahili Culture and Society. He has supervised undergraduate and postgraduate students in Anthropology and African Studies, and he has acted as internal and external examiner for doctoral dissertations in the UK, USA, Germany, and South Africa.


Academic Degrees nach oben

2002 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’
1997 MSc, Social Anthropology, LSE, University of London
Dissertation on Zulu praise poetry and its socio-regulative functions
1996 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) nach oben


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

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’


Publications nach oben

A complete and updated list of publications will be provided soon.

Further Links nach oben


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


Terms of Analysis in African Studies: do we need 'Conceptual Decolonisation’? PdfLogo 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 MP3


Swahili scholars, poetry and politics“, Link 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.