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

Postgraduate Course: Consumption in Africa: History, Personhood and Identity (PGSP11536)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe importance of consumption as a point of entry for understanding a wide range of micro- and large-scale social processes, and as a bridge for linking the past and the present, has received due recognition only comparatively recently. Many of the most hotly debated issues within African studies today - from the nature of a new 'middle class' to the agglomeration effects of urbanism - turn on understandings of consumption as both a driver and an indicator of change.

Consumption is inherently personal, but is also entwined with larger social, economic and political processes. Through lectures, readings and seminar discussions, the course will interrogate its polyvalent character and engage with debates about how consumption may shed light on individual and collective identities and their entanglement with such processes. The course will address a wide range of phenomena from food and alcohol that enter the body as material substances, to music, film and performance which often represent aesthetic representations of bodily practices, but which also have their material effects. It will begin by addressing a deeper history of Africa's integration into global trade through the nexus between slavery and consumption and the subsequent role of colonial migrant labour, cash cropping and taxation as the driver of new wants. It will then turn to consider particular types of contemporary consumption more closely - including food, clothing, drink and cultural forms - before turning to consider some of the drivers and sites of consumption, ranging from religious spaces to the mega-city.

The course invites students to reflect on consumption as something that encapsulates, but is also more than, a by-product of production (in the narrowly economic sense) or of basic bodily needs. We will explore consumption as something that is productive in its own right: of representations, imaginaries, economic processes and class/status hierarchies. The course will therefore assist students to look at a range of contemporary issues with a different set of lenses deriving from a range of disciplinary traditions.
Course description 1. Academic Description

The course will introduce students to perspectives on consumption from a range of disciplinary perspectives, notably history, social anthropology, sociology and political economy
The course will pay particular attention to in-depth studies from across Africa and relate these to global processes.

2. Course Structure:

The course will be delivered over 10 weeks involving a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar session.

Example weekly topics include:

African consumption and global history: Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean currents
Consuming Africans: taxation, migrant labour and colonialism
Markets, supermarkets and the black market
Alcohol: wine, beers, and spirits
Clothing and textiles: function and display
Food: fasting, feasting and hunger
Popular culture: music, film and literature as mirror and medium
Locating the African 'middle class'
Religion and consumption: Pentecostalism and Sufism
The Mega-City, Waste and Recycling

3. Student learning experience

1-hour lectures will introduce the week's key concepts and debates using visual material such as film and historical documents
Weekly seminars will involve a more detailed discussion of particular cases based upon joint presentations by students.
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
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critical awareness and extensive knowledge of key concepts and debates in the study of consumption, in Africa and globally.
  2. In-depth understanding of consumption as a field that brings together a focus on gendered personhood, collective identities and social processes
  3. Engagement with diverse source materials including official documents, film and music
  4. Understanding of the larger social, economic and political logics that are underpinned and inscribed by consumption practices
  5. Critical engagement with academic debates surrounding consumption, its history and manifestations in the present
Reading List
1. Indicative Readings:

Karin Barber. 2018. A History of African Popular Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bridget Kenny. 2018. Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in South Africa: Shelved in the Service Economy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Karen Tranberg Hansen 2000., Salaula: The World of Secondhand Clothing and Zambia. Chicago & London: Chicago University Press.

Elias Mandala. 2005. The End of Chidyerano: A History of Food and Everyday Life in Malawi, 1860-2004. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

Anne Kelk Mager. 2010. Beer, Sociability and Masculinity in South Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Achille Mbembe. 2001. On the Postcolony. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

James McCann. 2010. Stirring the African Pot: African Cuisines and Global Interaction 1500-2000. London: C. Hurst.

Bianca Murillo. 2017. Market Encounters: Consumer Cultures in Twentieth-Century Ghana. Athens: Ohio University Press.

Sasha Newell. 2012. The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption and Citizenship in Cote d┬┐Ivoire. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Mark Paterson. 2016. Consumption and Everyday Life. London: Routledge

Nina Sylvanus. 2016. Patterns in Circulation: Cloth, Gender and Materiality in West Africa. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course aims to equip students with the following skills:

1. Synthesizing and analysing empirical (textual and visual) and theoretical materials from varied sources.
2. Examining, using, and assessing evidence in support of explanatory and normative claims.
3. Developing and evaluating arguments that take complexity into account.
4. Exercising informed independent thought and critical judgment.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Paul Nugent
Tel: (0131 6)50 3879
Course secretaryMr Adam Petras
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