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

Postgraduate Course: Anthropology and Africa (PGSP11598)

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
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 as, colonialism, postcolonialism and decolonial inquiry, narrative practice, indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, witchcraft, medicine, gender, and multispecies environments 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 a multitude of cultures, values, worldviews, faiths, customs and societies across the African continent. Africa has frequently existed in the imagination of 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 historical approaches to anthropology can be transcended without decentring the variety of African social forms, knowledge systems, or the ways in which people actively work to create meaningful, viable lives. How can ethnography be mobilised to bring to life the 'everyday-ness' of life in Africa, from the full spectrum of successes and challenges that we engage with any other society? How has this problem-orientated approach with its roots in colonial agendas shaped the anthropological gaze, and worked to undermine local systems of knowledge? Is it possible for there to be a decolonial practice of anthropology in African contexts? How do the people living on the continent reflect on their position in the global economy? What of daily lives - how do people navigate questions of good and evil, sickness and health, sex and love, and the changing environment?

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. Choice of regional readings will follow the expertise of the lecturers, and students will have the opportunity to focus on certain areas in their assessed work. Each week contextualises the African material in terms of its global relevance with the ultimate aim of developing a nuanced picture of how real people deal with major issues that have shaped African history.

Content Outline:

Main topics will vary from year to year. Examples include: colonialism, postcolonialism and decolonisation, narrative practice, indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, witchcraft, medicine, gender, and multispecies environments.

Student Learning Experience:

The course involves a one-hour recorded lecture, and an hour long seminar per week for the whole class, together with tutorials in separate one-hour sessions. In the seminar, most weeks will involve discussion and group work. The tutorials will normally be concerned with one or more readings that illustrate, underpin or extend issues raised in the main sessions. Students should note that participation in the seminar and tutorials is compulsory and attendance will be recorded. During the first part of the course, student will work on an ethnographic book review with guidance and feedback from the lectures. In the second half of the course they will explore one of the topics in greater depth in an extended essay.

Learning and teaching activities

Total Hours: 200 (Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )

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 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  15
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework (100%)

Ethnographic Book Review due mid-semester (1000 words, 20%; long essay of 4000 words due end of semester, 80%.
Feedback Students will receive guidance on the book review as they write and formative, written feedback on the assignment once it is submitted. Written feedback is also given on the final essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrated specialised knowledge of a wide range of ethnographic material from different parts of Africa, and relate it to wider anthropological themes.
  2. Critically evaluate the relationship between ethnographic evidence and major social issues, and break down ┬┐grand narratives┬┐ of Africa.
  3. Interrogate mass media depictions of the African continent and write clearly and concisely about Africa with an appreciation of the social and political issues involved in such writing.
  4. Creatively apply ethnographic data to the understanding of the relationship between colonial and postcolonial experiences they affect African social forms
  5. Describe the complex relationship between the subject position of ethnographic writers and the people they write about in the context of the history of the discipline of anthropology.
Reading List
Cooper, F. (2002) Africa since 1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Devisch, R. and Naymnjoh, F. (2011) The Postcolonial Turn. Re-imagining anthropology and Africa. African Books Collective, Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon.

Emezi, A. (2018) Freshwater. London, Faber
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Broad knowledge of ethnographic data about Africa; ability to apply this knowledge to concrete issues such as the status of indigenous knowledge, medicine and health, and multispecies environments; critical skills and understanding of broad themes of postcolonialism and decolonial inquiry.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Chisomo Kalinga
Tel: (0131 6)51 5118
Course secretaryMr Adam Petras
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