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Philosophising in Mombasa

Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast

Kai Kresse

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Philosophising in Mombasa provides an approach to the anthropological study of philosophical discourses in the Swahili context of Mombasa, Kenya. In this historically established Muslim environment, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, philosophy is investigated as social discourse and intellectual practice, situated in everyday life. This is done from the perspective of an 'anthropology of philosophy', a project which is spelled out in the opening chapter.

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Contents

PROLOGUE
Approaching philosophical discourse in the Swahili context
PART ONE
Coordinates: theory, ethnography, history
CHAPTER 1
Towards an anthropology of philosophy
The ethnography of critical discourse and intellectual practice in Africa
CHAPTER 2
The Swahili context
Mombasa, the Old Town, and Kibokoni
CHAPTER 3
A neighbourhood of thinkers
Knowledge, discourse, and East African Islam
PART TWO
Contextual portrayals of local intellectuals
CHAPTER 4
Ahmed Sheikh Nabhany
Swahili poetry and the conservation of cultural knowledge
CHAPTER 5
Ahmad Nassir's poetical moral theory
Utu: how human beings ought to behave
CHAPTER 6
The Ramadhan lectures of Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir
The social critique of a politically minded Islamic scholar
PART THREE
Reconsidering ethnography, reconsidering theory
CHAPTER 7
Counterpoints and continuities: the younger generation
Intergenerational idioms: experience and perspectives
EPILOGUE
Approach and findings, conclusions and perspectives
Bibliography
Appendices
Appendix 1 Ahmed Sheikh Nabhany, Utendi wa baraza ya Iddul-l-Fitr
Appendix 2 Sheikh Abdilahi Nassir, Ramadhan lecture, 26th December 1998 (excerpt)
Kiswahili original and English translation.

About the Author

Kai Kresse is Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of St Andrews and Vice-Director for Research Development at the Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin.

Reviews

Kai Kresse brings three traditional Swahili scholars to life as sages in his masterly contextualisation of their ideas. This is an important scholarly contribution to the debate about the validity of non-western forms of philosophical engagement.
- Professor Mohamed Bakari, Fatih University, Istanbul, and former African Visiting Fellow, Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies
Kai Kresse takes us definitively away from the old debates about ethnophilosophy into the new terrain of African philosophy as intellectual practice, as the production of knowledge as wisdom. This bold and innovative book charts a new course for a modern anthropology and its engagement with the political economy of knowledge production.
- Professor Henrietta L. Moore, London School of Economics and Political Science
The opening chapter is so good that it could stand alone in a journal arguing for an anthropology of philosophy.
- Professor David Parkin, Oxford University
The subject matter of Kai Kresse's book is not only timely; his work is a milestone in terms of the ground it covers.
- Professor D.A. Masolo, University of Louisville in Kentucky

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