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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: The Anthropology of Africa (SCAN10067)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) 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.
Sample lecture themes:
Colonialism and Postcolonialism
Tradition, Modernity, Witchcraft
Development, Livelihood, Aspirations
Gender, Sex, Love
Slavery and Race
Pan-Africanism and Diaspora
Labour and Migration
State, Security, and the People

Sample Core Readings
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.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Short Essay 20%
Long Essay 80%
Feedback Students will have opportunity to have feedback on their essay plans before they write the essays. There will be class discussion after the first (short) essay about how we assess ethnographic work.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Gain familiarity with a wide range of ethnographic material from different parts of Africa, and the ability to relate this material to thematic topics in anthropology.
  2. Gain an appreciation of how major issues facing Africa affect people on the ground, and an ability to place these issues in historical context.
  3. Develop critical approaches to the representation of Africa in various media, and an awareness of social and political issues involved in the idea of ┐Africa┐ itself.
  4. Gain a broad understanding of the relationship between colonial and postcolonial experiences and contemporary practices of labour and migration as they affect African social forms
  5. Deepen critical understanding of relationship between the subject position of ethnographic writers and the people they write about in the context of the history of anthropology.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students in this course will:
- Gain a critical appreciation of the relationship between scholarship on Africa and the political history of the continent.
- Gain familiarity with a range of issues of particular importance for work in development, NGOs, and public health work.
- Gain a wide range of detailed ethnographic knowledge about the African continent.
- Appreciate the relationship of global and regional concerns in anthropology
- Develop skills and context for future field research in Africa.
- Demonstrate an awareness of the variety of African societies and an ability to critically evaluate media portrayals of the continent.
Course organiserDr Rebecca Marsland
Tel: (0131 6)51 3864
Course secretaryMiss Lauren Ayre
Tel: (0131 6)50 4001
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