Erin Pettigrew, Assistant Professor of History and Arab Crossroads Studies, Arts and Humanities, NYUAD

Erin Pettigrew

Assistant Professor of History and Arab Crossroads Studies, Arts and Humanities

Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi



B.A. Hollins University; M.A. University of California Los Angeles; Ph.D. Stanford University

Erin Pettigrew is an historian of modern Africa, with a research focus 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 which examines 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 sources for this project. To Invoke the Invisible relies on a range of historical and ethnographic sources, highlighting Pettigrew’s commitment to a multi-dimensional approach to historical research.

Teaching interests include modern Africa, West Africa and the Sahara, Islam in Africa, religious traditions and practices in Africa, colonialism, expressions of popular culture, and slavery in and out of Africa.

Pettigrew’s work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, The Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Fellowship, the American Institute of Maghrib Studies (AIMS), Stanford University (the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, the Center for African Studies, the School of Humanities and Sciences, and the Department of History), and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS).