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
Research Areas: 19th and 20th century West Africa, histories of Islam, race, and healing
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 19th and 20th century West Africa and histories of Islam, race, and healing in colonial and postcolonial contexts.
Her research has focused on invisible forces and entities – esoteric knowledge and spirits – to bring into view important social and political shifts in West Africa. Her book manuscript, To Invoke the Invisible: Islam, Spiritual Mediation, and Social Change in the Sahara, traces the shifting roles of Muslim spiritual mediators and their Islamic esoteric sciences in what is now the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Dr. Pettigrew has published in The Journal of African History, Mediterranean Politics, Islamic Africa, and the collected volume Politiques de la culture et cultures du politique dans l’ouest saharien.
Dr. Pettigrew's second major research project follows the history of the underground kadehiin political movement in Mauritania. Linked to larger Communist-Maoist political movements in the 1960s and 1970s, the kadehiin and its members constituted a rare moment of leftist and non-religious political influence in a thoroughly Muslim space. This research hones in on the role of women and non-Arabophone speakers in the movement complementing scholarship on the history of postcolonial politics, Communism and the global Cold War, education, gender, and social structures in Africa and the Middle East.
Dr. Pettigrew's research has been supported by the Fulbright Scholars Program at l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (l'EHESS) in Paris, France, as well as the Fulbright-Hays, the American Institute of Maghrib Studies, Mellon Foundation, Erasmus Mundus, as well as as well as a number of research fellowships at NYUAD and Stanford University. Her dissertation was awarded the Elizabeth Spilman Rosenfield Dissertation Prize (2015).