Postgraduate Course: Building Blocks of African Studies (PGSP11417)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course will introduce students to the interdisciplinary study of Africa and will equip them with the key theories and concepts with which to understand the continent in all its complexity. It will survey the history, politics, and anthropology of sub-Saharan Africa, and examine how these and other disciplines have shaped perceptions of and research on Africa, past and present. The course aims to understand the continent's diversity, contradictions, and challenges in its own right as well as in comparative perspective. Students will study the roles of African people, places, and processes in local and regional power structures and global systems, from the micro- to macro-level. The course will use media and popular culture to explore contemporary issues. Students will be encouraged to think critically and creatively about current affairs and African futures.
a. Academic Description
Africa today faces unprecedented opportunities for growth and prosperity, and ever more complex challenges to peace and sustainability. This course will introduce students to the key theories and concepts needed to understand the world's fastest growing continent. It will break free of common misconceptions of Africa to understand its diverse states, societies, and issues in context. Students will be expected to read widely - gaining familiarity with contemporary issues affecting the continent - and in depth, where they will hone their expertise on selected countries and topics. The course is grounded in the core disciplines of African Studies - politics, history, and anthropology - and will also draw on media, arts, and culture, business and economics, geography, other social sciences. This interdisciplinary approach will prepare students for theoretically rigorous and empirically grounded analysis and understanding.
As a 'building blocks' course, students will leave with a toolkit of disciplinary approaches, theories, terms and concepts, levels of analysis, and empirical case studies, through which to rigorously analyse and understand African issues. Throughout the course, students will be expected to reflect on their own identities and positionality. We will not construct an understanding of 'Africa' as a unified whole, but rather will examine its states and societies, processes and places in their full diversity. The ultimate objective of this course is to give students the tools with which to comprehend Africa's complex issues and seemingly contradictory realities.
b. Outline Content
Week 1. Seeing Africa
This week interrogates how we see, name, and parse a continent. It will test and challenge students' basic knowledge of the continent as we look at different ways of mapping Africa - from kingdoms and colonial boundaries, to present-day political borders, representations of ethnolinguistic units, environment and ecology, production and economy, and demographic ratios. We will also examine Euro-centric understandings of Africa and acquire the terms and concepts needed to reflexively examine race, identity, and hegemonic epistemologies going forward.
Week 2. Whose History?
How do we read African histories and where do we begin? This class examines historiographies, research methods in history and the narratives they make available, focusing primarily on colonialism and its impacts on the continent and shaping knowledge about the continent.
Week 3. Nations, Nationalism, and the Struggle for Independence
What are pan-Africanism, Négritude, Afrocentrism, anti-colonialism, and nationalism? What do they have in common, what are the differences between them, and how have their intellectual histories and political origins shaped post-colonial Africa? This class introduces some of the great African leaders, thinkers, and political philosophers as we examine the struggles for independence in all their glory... and contingency.
Week 4. Patronage, One-party Politics and Military Rule
Did post-colonial events and trajectories represent failed promises and dashed dreams, the inevitable outcome of African countries' poisoned chalice, or something else entirely? This week traces the outcomes of African independence from the 1960s to 1990, looking in particular at how one-party and military rule set up patterns of patronage politics, while also examining the alternatives pursued under the banner of African socialism.
Week 5. (African) Political Economies
Building on the previous week's introduction to patronage and personal rule, this week looks at African political economies. What were the legacies of cash crop and natural resource dependence? How did these collide with the international economic system and World Bank/IMF structural adjustment programmes to affect African countries' political and economic stability in the 1980s? Whither the rural - or industrial - African revolution?
Week 6. Social Movements and Democratization
From grassroots activism, to trade unions and religious movements, modern Africa has a long and illustrious legacy of social movements precipitating dramatic change. Which of these have been the most influential? What transformations did they achieve, and what were the structural factors constraining or enabling their success? This week looks at how people mobilized as political constituencies, and the pivotal role they played in sweeping the continent with the 'third wave' of democracy.
Week 7. Conflict and Civil War in Africa
From the Cold War to our post-9/11 era, Africa has been wracked by complex and intractable violent conflicts. This week we examine key cases that have shaped Africa's image as a dangerous place and go below the surface to understand how political violence has been made possible - or some may even argue, inevitable. Through empirical evidence (from e.g. Rwanda, South Sudan, and Sierra Leone), students will investigate the causes and consequences of political violence, genocide, and civil war, and analyse emergent patterns with respect to peacekeeping and militant Islam.
Week 8. Identity, Belonging, and Citizenship
What is the relationship between individuals, states, and identity groups in African societies today? This class more closely examines key terms and concepts, such as tribe and ethnicity, citizenship and autochthony, to understand how political, economic, and even cultural power is distributed and contested in Africa. We will consider the role of inter-group conflict and movement in the creation of modern Africa, as we investigate current patterns of displacement, migration, urbanisation, and xenophobia that are shaping politics.
Week 9. Aid and Development
This week we confront the dominant paradigm through which the West sees Africa: international aid and development and humanitarian relief. Why do Western countries persist in seeing Africa as a 'problem' to be 'fixed'? How do colonial legacies shape the development agenda, aid and debt, and the politics of legitimacy in non-governmental work? Students will contend with the most headline-grabbing issues - from HIV to FGM, famine to corruption - and consider the many actors driving the agenda in African democracies.
Week 10. TINA? Africapitalism, Afropolitanism, and African futures
African leaders have long called for African solutions to African problems. What will these look like in the 21st Century? With the youngest population and some of the fastest growing economies in the world, is Africa poised for an entrepreneurial revolution, led by new technology and pro-social capitalism? African art and music continues to shape the mainstream; will globalization lead to the democratization of popular culture - and will popular culture demand more of democracy for the next generation? We close the course looking at new trends for African futures, and examining the role of the past in shaping the road ahead.
c. Student Learning Experience
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
1. Demonstrate critical knowledge and understanding of the key theories, concepts and issues most central to African Studies;
2. Apply the knowledge, skills, and understanding gained in the course through academic and day-to-day engagement with research and news about Africa;
3. Critically analyse, synthesize, and evaluate research and contemporary debates about African issues, and navigate complex issues to make informed opinions and analyses;
4. Communicate through empirically grounded and theoretically informed written work and oral presentations, their knowledge of African Studies and related issues
5. Demonstrate autonomy, accountability, and initiative in their ability to question, examine, and understand key issues affecting Africa, through independent research.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Students will be assessed on three formal assignments, two of which are part of a formative assessment and feedback process, and the third of which is summative:
(i) In-class presentation and full participation in seminar discussions (10%); students will be marked by transparent criteria and feedback will be provided on the day for presentations; consideration will be given to students' diverse communication and learning styles and language skills, and students are expected to demonstrate growth and improvement in the quality of their comments and contributions in class over the course of the semester;
(ii) A 1,000-word essay (20%) due at the halfway point of the semester; this essay will follow the writing-as-process pedagogy to help students structure their ideas, organize persuasive academic arguments, and digest academic literature for the social sciences; students will receive feedback from this essay prior to the summative assignment to ensure they have developed basic research and writing skills;
(iii) A 3,000-word essay (70%) due after the final class; prior to the deadline, students will be encouraged to submit an essay abstract or outline to the instructor and will receive formal feedback on how to write a successful piece of academic writing for research.
||Feedback, as well as terms and conditions of assessment will be in line with School and University guidance and best practices.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate critical knowledge and understanding of the key theories, concepts and issues most central to African Studies;
- Apply the knowledge, skills, and understanding gained in the course through academic and day-to-day engagement with research and news about Africa;
- Critically analyse, synthesize, and evaluate research and contemporary debates about African issues, and navigate complex issues to make informed opinions and analyses;
- Communicate through empirically grounded and theoretically informed written work and oral presentations, their knowledge of African Studies and related issues
- Demonstrate autonomy, accountability, and initiative in their ability to question, examine, and understand key issues affecting Africa, through independent research.
|Bates, Robert H., Vumbi Y. Mudimbe, and Jean F. O'Barr (eds) Africa and the Disciplines: The contributions of research in Africa to the social sciences and humanities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.|
Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff. "Africa Observed: Discourses of the imperial imagination." Perspectives on Africa: a reader in culture, history, and representation. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1997. (689-703).
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 1965.
Mamdani, Mahmood. Citizen and Subject. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Mbembé, Achille. On the Postcolony. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
Ranger, Terence. "The invention of tradition in colonial Africa." Perspectives on Africa: A reader in culture, history, and representation. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||By the end of the programme, students will be equipped with new skills in:
1. Synthesising and analysing empirical and theoretical material from a variety of sources;
2. Examining, using and assessing evidence in support of explanatory and normative claims;
3. Developing and evaluating arguments that take different kinds of social complexity into account;
4. Exercising informed independent thought and critical judgment.
|Course organiser||Dr Zoe Marks
© Copyright 2016 The University of Edinburgh - 3 February 2017 5:01 am