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Dr. Britta Frede

Britta Frede

Postdoctoral Fellow ZMO/ FU Berlin (2013-2014, 2015-2017)

Out of Nouakchott: Female scholars as mediators of Islam in contemporary Mauritania

Dr. Britta Frede has studies Islamic Studies, Political Science and African History in Freiburg, Damascus, and Berlin. From 2006 to 2011 she was a research fellow at ZMO (Berlin) conducting two research projects analyzing socio-religious transformations in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Mauritania. In October 2011 she joined a DFG funded project titled "Epistemological Fundamentals of Difference in Sunni Islam: Traditionalists, Reformer and Islamists in Contemporary Africa" directed by Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Seesemann at Bayreuth University. Her PhD dealing with the Revival within the Mauritanian Sufi Brotherhood of the Tijaniyya since the 1930s, was defended in February 2012 at Freie Universität Berlin. In October 2013 she returned to Berlin working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at BGSMCS appointed by ZMO (Berlin). During the winter semester 2014/15 she substituted Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Seesemann at the Islamic Studies Department at Bayreuth University. In January 2015 she joined the editorial board of Islamic Africa as book review editor. Since February 2015 she holds a position as Dahlem International Network Postdoctoral Fellow based at the BGSMCS. Further, she is an associated research fellow at ZMO Berlin where she conducts a collaborative project funded by Volkswagen Foundation with Dr. Halkano Abdi Wario (Egerton University, Kenya) on transmission of Islamic knowledge and media in Africa.

Out of Nouakchott: Female scholars as mediators of Islam in contemporary Mauritania

This project deals with contemporary female Islamic scholars in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Traditionalist Islamic education with its institutions called maḥdara constitute today an important part of the national cultural heritage. Since the Eighteenth Century numbers of female Islamic scholars conducted their formation in these institutions and sometimes founded their own. Since the 1990s such female guided traditionalist educational institutions are moving from the countryside into the capital educating foremost children and adult women. While the populace of the countryside remains ethnically and socially quite homogenous, the social composition of Nouakchott is quite the opposite. Based on biographical interviews and visits to lessons, conducted during several field visits between 2012 and 2014, the life trajectories, teaching activities and their role as authorities within their communities will be examined answering questions about the contemporary situation of female teachers and the maḥdara in urban settlements and the place of female Islamic scholars in the production of Mauritania’s national cultural heritage.


  • Die Erneuerung der Tiǧānīya in Mauretanien. Popularisierung religiöser Ideen in der Kolonialzeit. ZMO Studien; 31. Berlin: Schwarz-Verlag, 2014.



  • Together with Joseph Hill, Special issue: En-gendering Islamic Knowledge and Authority in West Africa. Islamic Africa 5 (2, 2014).


Peer-reviewed articles

  • Following in the Steps of ʽĀʾisha: Hassaniyya Speaking Tijānī Women as Spiritual Guides (muqaddamāt) and Teaching Islamic Scholars (limrābuṭāt) in Mauritania. Islamic Africa 5 (2, 2014): 225-273.
  • Together with Joseph Hill, En-gendering Islamic Knowledge and Authority in Africa: An Introduction. Islamic Africa 5 (2, 2014): 131-165.


Other articles

  • Conference Report: Mauritania’s Manuscripts – a critical evaluation of former conversation projects and developing future strategies, Orient Bulletin 29, Dezember 2015.
  • Brakna. In: Encyclopedia Islamica Online, ed. by Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas and Everett Rowson. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
  • Islamic Scholarship in Mauritania. In: Oxford Islamic Studies Online, Url: http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/, 2013.
  • Une colonisation à la marge ? Quelques aspects de la transformation religieuse de la société hassanophone pendant la période coloniale française. In : L’héritage colonial du Maroc. Actes du 8e colloque Maroc-Allemande, Bayreuth 2011, ed. p. Herbert Popp et Mohamed Aït Hamza. Bayreuth: Naturwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft Bayreuth e.V., 2012, 329-338.
  • Sidi Ahmad b. al-Amin al-Shinqiti. In: Dictionary of African Biography, ed. by Henry Louis Gates & Emmanuel Akyeampong. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  •  Shaykhani b. Muhammad al-Tulba. In: Dictionary of African Biography, ed. by Henry Louis Gates & Emmanuel Akyeampong. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  •  Alleinreisende Frauen in der Kolonie: Reiseberichte als Medium zur Popularisierung kolonialer Machtpolitik. In: Der weibliche Blick auf den Orient. Reisebeschreibungen europäischer Frauen im Vergleich, hrsg. v. Miroslawa Czarnecka, Christa Ebert u. Grazyna Barbara Szewczyk, Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik; Reihe A, Bd. 102. Bern, Peter Lang 2011, 149-174.
  •  Nur ein Nomade kann ein Held sein. In: Orientalische Reisende in Europa – Europäische Reisende im Nahen Osten: Bilder vom Selbst und Imagination des Anderen, hrsg. v. Bekim Agai und Zita Ágota Pataki, Bonner Islamstudien; 19. Berlin, EB-Verlag 2010, 135-158.
  • Shaikhani (1907-1986) und die Erneuerung der Tijaniyya in den 40er Jahren, inamo (Informationsprojekt Naher und Mittlerer Osten) 61; (Jg. 16, Frühjahr 2010), 39-45.