Faculty Directory

Caitlyn Bolton

Assistant Professor


DFE Department of Formative Education


Caitlyn Bolton is an assistant professor of Anthropology of Formative Education and an affiliate faculty with the Islamic Civilizations and Societies program. Her ethnographic and archival research in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula examines how Muslims employ Islamic knowledge and communal forms of agency to redefine sustainable development in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Her first book project, The Spirit of Progress: Islamic Education, Development, and Modernity in Zanzibar, is a multi-sited ethnography of the contested terrain of Islam and development in an Indian Ocean site located at the nexus of multiple projects of improvement and reform—from British and Omani imperialism, Western development, and Islamic organizations with ties to the oil-rich Gulf. She examines transnational Islamic educational organizations that work to redefine the practice of development and its dominant concepts including sustainability, knowledge, and progress. Her next project challenges the assumed conflict between religious education and climate change by analyzing how Islamic knowledge is used to advocate for environmental sustainability in Zanzibar.

Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and Fulbright-Hays. She speaks Arabic and Swahili, has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the City University of New York, an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from New York University, and a B.A. in anthropology and Africana Studies from Bard College.