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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: The Anthropology of Africa (PGSP11414)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryA course on major themes in the anthropology of Africa based on ethnographic and theoretical readings from across the continent. Readings are set in context of thematic topics such development, colonialism, religion, and violence, aiming toward a broad survey of key issues in historical and contemporary African anthropology.
Course description This course asks what a specifically anthropological viewpoint, based on close ethnographic research, contributes to our understanding of the African continent. Africa has frequently been known to the West through images of war, disease, and poverty, and treated both as a homogenous, undifferentiated entity and a victim of outside circumstances, from slavery to colonialism to international debt and structural adjustment. In this course we ask how these issues can be addressed without losing sight of the variety of African social forms or the ways in which people actively work to create meaningful, viable lives. Can ethnography be mobilised to bring to life the "everyday-ness" of life in Africa, without doing disservice to the very problems that exist? How do the people living on the continent reflect on their position in the global economy? What do tradition, modernity and development mean to them? How do people mobilize memories of the past create the sense of a liveable future?
The course uses ethnographic and theoretical work from across the African continent and beyond to reflect on a series of key topics that shape the social and political lives of people in Africa, including colonialism, development, witchcraft, labour and slavery, pan-Africanism and diaspora, migration, and public health. Choice of regional readings will follow expertise of the lecturers, and students will have the opportunity to focus on certain areas in their assessed work. Each week contextualizes the African material in terms of its general, global relevance, with the ultimate aim of developing a nuanced picture of how real people deal with the major issues that have shaped African history.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 171 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) One short essay focusing on a specific ethnographic work (1000 words, 20%)
One long essay from a set of questions each relating to a week's theoretical or thematic topic (3000 words, 80%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate specialised knowledge of African ethnographic material and relate it to wider anthropological themes.
  2. Critically evaluate the relationship between ethnographic evidence and major social issues affecting the African continent (e.g. development, migration, postcolonialism, conflict, HIV/AIDS) and break down "grand narratives" of Africa.
  3. Describe the complex relationship between the subject position of ethnographic writers and the people they write about, in the context of the history of the discipline of anthropology.
  4. Creatively apply ethnographic data to the understanding of concrete problems of development and governance.
  5. Interrogate mass media depictions of the African continent and write clearly and concisely about Africa with an appreciation of the social and political issues involved in such writing.
Reading List
Ferguson, J. 1999. Expectations of modernity: myths and meanings of urban life on the Zambian copper belt. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Moore, S.F. 1994. Anthropology and Africa. Changing perspectives on a changing scene. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia.
Ntarangwi, M., D. Mills & M. Babiker (eds) 2006. African anthropologies. History, critique and practice. London and New York: CODESRIA in association with Zed Books. A. Gordon & D.L. Gordon. London: Lynne Reinner.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Broad knowledge of ethnographic data about Africa, ability to apply this knowledge to concrete issues of development and public health, critical skills and understanding of broad themes of postcolonialism and development.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Tom Boylston
Course secretaryMs Jessica Barton
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
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