Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast (International African Library EUP)

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9780748627868: Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast (International African Library EUP)

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.
Entry-points and guidelines for the ethnography are provided by discussions of Swahili literary genres, life histories, and social debates. From here, local discourses of knowledge are described and analysed. The social environment and discursive dynamics of the Old Town are portrayed, firstly, by means of following and contextualising informal discussions among neighbours and friends at daily meeting points in the streets; and secondly, by presenting and discussing in-depth case studies of local intellectuals and their contributions to moral and intellectual debates within the community. Taking recurrent internal discussions on social affairs, politics, and appropriate Islamic conduct as a focus, this study sheds light on local practices of critique and reflection.

In particular, three local intellectuals (two poets, one Islamic scholar) are portrayed against the background of regional intellectual history, Islamic scholarship, as well as common public debates and private discussions. The three contextual portrayals discuss exemplary issues for the wider field of research on philosophical discourse in Mombasa and the Swahili context on the whole, with reference to the lives and projects of distinct individual thinkers. Ultimately, the study directs attention beyond the regional and the African contexts, towards the anthropological study of knowledge and intellectual practice around the world.

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Kai Kresse is Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of St Andrews

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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 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 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 The opening chapter is so good that it could stand alone in a journal arguing for an anthropology of philosophy. 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. 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. The subject matter of Kai Kresse's book is not only timely; his work is a milestone in terms of the ground it covers.

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