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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: Anthropology and Africa (SCAN10088)

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
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. Howan 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.

Main topics will vary from year to year. Examples include: colonialism, postcolonialism and decolonisation, narrative practice, indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, African diaspora, religion and politics, gender, and the African city.

The course involves a one-hour recorded lecture and an hour long seminar per week for the whole class 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 is compulsory and attendance will be recorded.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Anthropology 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:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 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. Gain familiarity with a wide range of ethnographic material from different parts of Africa, and the ability to relate this material to thematic topics in anthropology.
  2. Gain an appreciation of how major issues facing Africa affect people on the ground, and an ability to place these issues in historical context.
  3. Develop critical approaches to the representation of Africa in various media, and an awareness of social and political issues involved in the idea of 'Africa' itself.
  4. Gain a broad understanding of the relationship between colonial and postcolonial experiences they affect African social forms.
  5. Deepen critical understanding of relationship between the subject position of ethnographic writers and the people they write about in the context of the history of anthropology.
Reading List
Adjepong, Anima. (2022). Erotic Ethnography: Sex, Spirituality, and Embodiment in Qualitative Research. The Journal of Men¿s Studies, 30(3), 383¿401.

Benton, Adia. (2016) ¿African expatriates and race in the anthropology of humanitarianism¿, Critical African studies, 8(3), pp. 266¿277.

Cooper, Frederick. 2002. ¿Workers, Peasants, and the Crisis of Colonialism.¿ In Africa since 1940. The Past of the Present, Cambridge. Cambridge.

Izzo, J. (2015). The Anthropology of Transcultural Storytelling: Oui mon commandant! and Amadou Hampâté Bâ's Ethnographic Didacticism. Research in African Literatures, 46(1), 1-18

Mbembe, Achille, 2001. Chapter 4: ¿The Thing and Its Doubles¿ in On the Postcolony. Berkeley: university of California Press.

Nyamnjoh, Francis. 2011. ¿Cameroonian Bushfalling: Negotiation of Identity and Belonging in Fiction and Ethnography.¿ American Ethnologist 38 (4): 701¿1

Williams, Erica L. (2018). Niara Sudarkasa: Inspiring Black Women¿s Leadership. In I. E. Harrison, D. Johnson-Simon, & E. L. Williams (Eds.), The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology (pp. 68¿83).

Urban Popular Economy Collective. 2022. ¿Urban Popular Economies: Territories of Operation for Lives Deemed Worth Living.¿ Public Culture 34 (3 98) 333-357.

Wainaina, Binyavanga. 2005. How to write about Africa. Granta 92
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students in this course will:
- Gain a critical appreciation of the relationship between scholarship on Africa and the political history of the continent.
- Gain familiarity with a range of issues of particular importance for work in development, NGOs, and public health work.
- Gain a wide range of detailed ethnographic knowledge about the African continent.
- Appreciate the relationship of global and regional concerns in anthropology
- Develop skills and context for future field research in Africa.
- Demonstrate an awareness of the variety of African societies and an ability to critically evaluate media portrayals of the continent.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Chisomo Kalinga
Tel: (0131 6)51 5118
Course secretaryMs Agata Lebiedzinska
Tel: (01316) 515197
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