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Assistant Professor of History and Arab Crossroads Studies Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi
Education: BA Hollins University; MA University of California Los Angeles; PhD Stanford University
Erin Pettigrew is an assistant professor of History and Arab Crossroads Studies at NYU Abu Dhabi. As a historian of modern Africa, her research focuses on nineteenth and twentieth century West Africa and histories of Islam, race, and healing in colonial and postcolonial contexts.
She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled To Invoke the Invisible: Muslim Healing, Magic, and Amulets in the Twentieth-Century History of the Southern Sahara examining the social history of Muslim spiritual mediators in twentieth-century Mauritania. This project addresses Pettigrew’s broader research interests in local intellectual and religious history in the Sahara and Sahel and how racial discourse in the region, ideas about health and healing, and debates over the orthodoxy of religious practice are constituted over time. Pettigrew conducted fieldwork among families known for their powerful knowledge in the fabrication and use of amulets, numerology, sacred verses, and the secrets of letters to act as mediators between the spiritual and material worlds as they service clients in need of healing and protection in the Sahara. Written legal opinions, locally-produced chronologies, colonial archives, oral history interviews, ethnographic observation, and media images and programming make up the French and Arabic sources for this project.