Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : African Studies

Undergraduate Course: Advanced Issues in the Making of Contemporary Africa (AFRI10003)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAdvanced Issues in the Making of Contemporary Africa takes a recent topic, one emerging in the news or in the academic literature, and provides students with the tools to situate it within the larger academic literature on contemporary Africa, the political context and methods of analysis.
Course description The learning aims of this course are to develop a wide and deep understanding of contemporary Africa, drawing on the multi-disciplinary approach of African Studies. Students will learn about the historical roots of modern phenomenon on the continent and situate these within a wider global context. Students will develop expertise about particular countries and regions as well as on particular themes, depending on the focus of the course for the year.

The substantive content of the course will change each year depending on topical issues and will be taught by experts on the issue itself or on particular approaches/methods from amongst permanent and postdoctoral staff. For example, around a particular set of approaches, contemporary events, regions or countries.

In each case, students will learn substantive information about the topic itself but perhaps more importantly they will acquire the generic skills to analyse social phenomena in contemporary Africa: how to place it within a larger context, where to look for information about context, the types of variables (whether social, economic, cultural, or political) to consider when analysing the phenomenon, how to identify wider theories and concepts to analyse the phenomenon and how to acquire evidence that would support one theoretical interpretation over another.

In 2023/24 the course focuses on Money & Finance in Africa & Beyond. Moving beyond merely asking questions about why some parts of the world are rich and others are poor, this course asks what exactly is money? Is credit always a good thing? Is debt necessarily a bad thing? How does finance work, actually? How have financial systems been made historically and how might they be remade today?

We draw on anthropological, historical, and political economy perspectives to look at the role of money and finance in making an unequal but interconnected world. While African case studies predominate, the course foregrounds connections to the wider world and develops an approach to money & finance from the global South.

Topics we will cover include:
1. Digital finance, FinTech (i.e., financial technology), and the possibility of a cashless economy
2. Colonialism and taxation
3. International financial institutions, 'debt diplomacy' and sovereign borrowing
4. 'Informal' economies and the social life of money
5. Money and its relations to other types of wealth (from cattle and cowrie shells to capital)
6. Economic crimes (such as counterfeiting and smuggling) and regulations
7. The politics of US dollar dominance and the rise of China
8. Central banking and 'high finance'
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Africa in the Contemporary World (AFRI08008)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Social Sciences courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, 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 40 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Participation: 10%
Essay: 50%, 3000 words
Online exam: 40%
Feedback Students will be offered advice and feedback on their workplans/outlines in preparation for the group presentation, essay and online exam, which they may obtain on request. This feedback and guidance will be provided during the course convenor's weekly office hours and by appointment. Students will furthermore be given feedback on their group presentation which will take place on a weekly basis throughout the course. Students will have received written feedback on the essay before they are required to sit the exam. For the group presentation, feedback will be provided both orally immediately following the presentation; and in written form within one week of the presentation. Feedback on tutorial participation will be provided through an individual Tutorial Participation feedback sheet, which will be given to the students after the final tutorial.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate comprehensive understanding of contemporary debates on the chosen event, from both a theoretical and empirical perspective.
  2. apply specialist in-depth knowledge of specific areas and issues in relation to the chosen event.
  3. critically engage with key explanatory theories, concepts, institutions and issues in the study of the chosen event.
  4. deploy effective communications skills, both written and verbal, to provide clear and concise analysis of the topic at hand.
  5. engage in critical thinking, reflection and debate for academic and non-academic consumption.
Reading List
Parker Shipton, Credit Between Cultures: Farmers, Financiers, and Misunderstandings in Africa (Yale University Press)

Deborah James, Money from Nothing: Indebtedness and Aspiration in South Africa (Stanford University Press)

Jane Guyer, "Soft currencies, cash economies, new monies: Past and present," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2011)

Kevin Gallagher and Richard Kozul-Wright, The Case for a New Bretton Woods (Polity Press)

Alden Young, "A Currency for Sudan," in The Development Century: A Global History (Cambridge University Press).

A Smith, "Nigerian scam emails and the charms of capital," Cultural Studies (2009)

Sarah Babb, Behind the Development Banks: Washington Politics, World Poverty, and the Wealth of Nations (University of Chicago Press)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Critical thinking and analysis
Team work
Effective written and verbal communication
Effective research and analytical skills
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Kevin Donovan
Course secretaryMr Ethan Alexander
Tel: (0131 6)50 4001
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information