Kai Kresse is Associate Professor of African and Swahili Studies in MESAAS.
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, Past Present Continuous: Swahili Muslim Publics and Post-colonial Experience, is forthcoming with Indiana University Press.
His translations from Swahili include Uwongozi (Guidance), a selection of Islamic educational essays written by Sheikh al-Amin Mazrui, and the pamphlet ‘Kenya: Twendapi?’ (Kenya: where are we heading?) by Abdilatif Abdalla. Other research interests are hermeneutics, social theory, African philosophy and intercultural philosophy. Kresse has also published on Ernst Cassirer, and on African philosophers, such as Henry Odera Oruka, V.Y. Mudimbe, Kwasi Wiredu and Okot p’Bitek.
He received his PhD from SOAS, in Anthropology and African Studies in 2002, after studying Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics (MSc 1997) and Philosophy at the University of Hamburg (MA 1996). Before joining Columbia, he was Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews, and Vice-Director for Research at Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. In 2005, he was Evans-Pritchard Lecturer at All Souls College, Oxford.