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

Postgraduate Course: Contemporary African Issues and Debates (PGSP11076)

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
SummaryContemporary African Issues and Debates (CAID) aims to allow students to frame and interrogate a range of contemporary debates using the theories and skills brought up in the parallel Building Blocks of African Studies core course. The debates attempt to tackle issues that are common to much of sub-Saharan Africa today. Adhering to the usual caveat about diversity across the continent, the course acknowledges that Africa is an amalgamation of societies, something which is not always appreciated by those who consider Africa a country. CAID attempts to transcend such views through analysing issues that are commonly discussed in various fora inside and outside the continent.
Course description a. Academic Description

Contemporary African Issues and Debates (CAID) aims to allow students to frame and interrogate a range of contemporary debates using theories and skills addressed in Building Blocks in African Studies (PGSP1147). The debate topics are focused on issues that are common to much of sub-Saharan Africa today. While attention is placed on contemporary issues, the course will also situate these topics in a historic context. CAID is interdisciplinary and encourages students to examine how various disciplines, primarily, anthropology, history, and politics, contribute to a deeper understanding of the weekly topic. Students will be asked to look at local case studies as well as reflect on how the issues and debates are shaped by international power structures.

b. Outline Content

Provisional weekly topics:
Introduction and Pan-Africanism
LGBT and its controversies in Africa
Environment and Tourism
Slacktivism and Arm Chair Activism
Conflict and its Depictions
Forced displacement and Refugee issues
Labour migration and Diaspora
Civil / Military Relations
International Criminal Court (ICC) in Africa

*Please note that topics will change annually and the above is meant to be an indication of the types of topics covered in the course

c. Student Learning Experience

Each week will commence with an introduction to the topic by the lecturer followed by student led presentations/debates and a class discussion. This class is designed to be interactive. The debate topics are intentionally divisive and require the presenter to choose one side of the argument. This is meant to help students develop their ability to make an academic argument, a skill necessary for successful essay and dissertation writing. Group discussions and a longer essay will also allow students to explore the other side of the argument and choose the perspective they most agree with. The course will also incorporate sources beyond academic literature to help demonstrate the role of popular culture and media's (both international and local) influence on the debates.
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 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Please contact the School directly for a breakdown of Learning and Teaching Activities
Assessment (Further Info) Please contact the School directly for a breakdown of Assessment Methods
Additional Information (Assessment) 10% of the overall course mark is based on class participation. This course is designed to be dynamic with all students participating in each session. Attendance is necessary for participation and individuals who miss more than one session can expect a decreased participation mark. A high participation mark will result from active participation in all group discussions and debates, as well as evidence of having completed the assigned readings. A high mark will also represent the student's ability to listen to and respect the opinions of their classmates.

20% of the overall course mark is based on the debate presentation and an accompanying one-page summary. Each student will lead one side of the debate on a given week (to be selected during week one). This presentation will last 15-18 minutes and will be followed by a 3-5 minute rebuttal. Presenters may prepare a Powerpoint but it is not necessary. The presenter will also prepare a brief outline of their main points (bullet format consisting of no more than the front of an A4) and key readings (different from the assigned course readings).

70% of the overall course mark is based on an essay of 3,000 words. The essay can be on any of the weekly topics EXCEPT the one in which the student led the presentation. Students will critically examine both sides of the debate and present an argument. Essays will be marked using the standard marking form for essays in the School of Social and Political Science. The criterion include: critical/conceptual analysis, strength/cohesion of argument, use of sources/evidence, structure and organisation, breadth and relevance of reading, and clarity of expression/referencing.
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on their presentation and accompanying outlines within one week of the presentation. This feedback is designed to help students reflect on potential ways to improve their argument and analysis for the final essays. We undertake to return all final essay marks and feedback within 15 working days of submission.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the background and context of selected contemporary issues in Africa.
  2. Locate relevant literature in a supervisor-supervisee -like relationship
  3. Construct original academic arguments based on secondary research
  4. Understand the relationships between concepts, theories and critiques of contemporary African issues and developments.
Reading List
Background readings:

Anderson, D., Cheeseman, N., eds. 2013. Routledge Handbook of African Politics. London: Routledge.

Chabal, P., Daloz, J. P. 1999. Africa works: Disorder as political instrument. Oxford: James Currey.
Cheeseman, N. 2015. Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures, and the Struggle for Political Reform. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cooper, F. 2002. Africa Since 1940: The past of the present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nugent, P. 2004 [or the second edition, 2012]. Africa since Independence: A comparative history. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Specific readings will be provided for each topic, including peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and online outlets like academic blogs and government, NGO, and activist reports
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1. Undertaking and presenting scholarly work
2. Participating in group discussion
3. Making appropriate use of library and IT resources
4. Theoretically and contextually framing potential research questions
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Maggie Dwyer
Tel: (0131 6)51 5076
Course secretaryMs Carol Ramsay
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
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