African Studies and Anthropology Modules


Advanced Perspectives on Africa

The module deals with cutting-edge debates of relevance to advanced students of Africa, irrespective of the regions of the continent or the disciplines that interest them most. Part reading group, part forum for students to present case studies that particularly interest them, the module is a lively setting drawing students and faculty together into discussion and criticism of current research on Africa. 

Teaching: Two hours per week, semester one
Assessment: One oral presentation plus two written submissions of up to 2,000 words each

African Fiction and its Critics

This module examines the development of the African novel in the twentieth-century. Working with texts from across the continent, the module explores the engagement of the African novel with key issues such as history, slavery, colonialism, gender, postcolonial politics and the construction of nationhood. It examines the progression of these issues through mapping the work of earlier canonised figures against that of a younger generation of writers emerging in the 80s and 90s. Writers to be studied include Chinua Achebe,  Ngugi wa Thiong’o,  Ama Ata Aidoo,  Sembene Ousmane, Nurudeen Farah, Abdulrazak Gurnah  and Yvonne Vera. These texts will be discussed in the context of a survey of the ways in which African literature has been read over time, from negritudist approaches in the 1930s and 40s through to post-colonial literary theory in the 1990s, paying particular attention to responses to those theories by the writers themselves. 

Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

History and Politics of Southern Africa

This module examines contemporary Southern African states and societies in their historical contexts. The emphasis is on the emergence of modern South Africa and its effects on politics in the broader subcontinent. Specific topics linking the region’s past and present include land, work, health, gender relations and violence.

Teaching: Two hours per week, semester one
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays

Independent Study

You focus on an area of specific interest to yourself.  You must plan and carry out a project, researching it on the basis of archival and/or appropriate documentary material.  Preliminary sessions provide background information and help in project planning. 

Assessment: One 4,000-word project written on the topic of your choice

Livelihoods and Development in Africa

Using a variety of conceptual and analytical perspectives, but particularly livelihood thinking/analysis, this module examines rural and urban livelihood systems and processes during the colonial and post-independence periods, and assesses both state and non-state interventions which aim to transform regional livelihoods. We will look at the long-term evolution of livelihood thinking; the contemporary utility of livelihood as concept and practice; the changing contexts, under the influence of processes like globalisation, modernity and environmental change, for pursuing regional livelihoods; and the structure and dynamics of livelihood systems, practices and outcomes, using selected case study examples. We will pay particular attention to processes of livelihood diversification and associated strategies of mobility and multilocality, including transnationality and the deployment of diasporan network connections. This module involves individual/group research on the background to, and nature and impact of, specific development interventions aiming to promote secure and sustainable livelihoods. 

Teaching: Three hours per week, semester two
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

Media and Popular Culture in Africa

The module offers students the opportunity to engage with popular texts and performances in contemporary African genres. Special attention will be paid to emerging and locally-based genres such as neo-traditional oral poetry; improvised popular theatre; popular print culture; and television and video drama, all of which will be related to contemporary social and political developments in Africa. 

Teaching: Four hours per week, semester two
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay or a multimedia format project utilising audio and/or video recordings, accompanied by a 2,500-word essay

Research Skills and Methods in African Studies

The module is a practical hands-on introduction to research methods which takes you through the process of: defining a research topic; identifying and accessing sources, including archival and electronic sources; compiling a bibliography; producing an overview of existing work on the topic; designing a project; establishing a timetable; gaining research permission; the ethics of research; planning and executing fieldwork; using interviews and surveys; using photography, sound and video recording; keeping field notes; archival research; assessing and analyaing findings; and writing up. You will have the opportunity to present work in progress at different stages of your project, gaining feedback and advice from staff and fellow students.  Through the talks by invited speakers on research in progress, the module also offers a broader perspective on research and raises questions about interdisciplinary approaches to it.

Teaching:  Two and a half hours per fortnight, semester one and two
Assessment: Short paper presenting research proposal and bibliography; journal on sources and methods kept during the year; seminar presentation of work in progress.  

Slavery and Freedom in Twentieth Century Africa

This module looks at the process of emancipation from slavery in twentieth century Africa. At the beginning of the twentieth century European powers legally abolished slavery in their African colonies. In spite of slavery's legal abolition, emancipation was a protracted process in African societies. Focusing on the experience and agency of slaves and slave descendants, this module looks at the social, economic, and legal frameworks of abolition; forced labour and its reform; labour migration and proletarianisation; the relationship between slave descent, ethnicity, and citizenship; and the gendered aspects of slavery (including concubinage and sexual slavery). 

Teaching: Three hours per week, semester two
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay


Subject to availability, you can also select one option from a list of selected modules in other disciplines, such as:

Before Postcolonialism: Europe and its Empires 

Department: Modern Languages

Postcolonialism is primarily an intellectual (and often political) attempt to challenge the politico-economic and symbolic world domination of European powers – i.e. colonialism. But how did European empires develop in the first place? What were the value systems which drove a tiny peninsula of the Eurasiatic continent to expand and conquer the rest of the world? And how did modern European colonial systems compare with empires of other times and places? Through a comparative approach of imperial systems since the early modern period, this module examines the conditions and modus operandi of a political phenomenon which came to rule the world in the late nineteenth century, when the majority of the planet became subjected to half a dozen European countries. It offers a thought-provoking introduction to a condition which triggered multiple emancipatory reactions, and still influences much of today's world.

Teaching: Two hours per week, semester one
Assessment: One 1,000-wird historiographical commentary and one 4,000-word essay

Egypt in Revolution

Department: History

The Egyptian revolution of January 25th 2011 can only be understood within a wider historical framework spanning well over a hundred years of modern state building, dynamic social change and concomitant struggles over the nature of modern society, its political character and its cultural orientation. The nexus of modernity, masculinity, and the nation provides a useful angle through which to examine this history. In the first semester we focus on key processes, punctuated by specific revolutionary moments, that shaped Egypt’s modern history through the 20th century, such as the emergence of a modern middle class with distinctive institutions and practices; local modernity defined by rejection of both local ‘tradition’ and western colonial domination; the emergence of modern Islam as both an intellectual tradition and as a protest movement; the rise and fall of the ‘Liberal Age’ and the arrival of military rule. In the second semester we focus on the post-independence era, ending with an in-depth examination of an ongoing revolutionary process that began in 2011. This is a source-based module; each week will feature a novel or a period movie in translation. 

Teaching: Three hours per week, semesters one and two

Postcolonial Theory

Department: Modern Languages

This module involves the study and analysis of key thinkers of postcolonial theory, examining figures such as Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Homi Bhabha and Frantz Fanon, in addition to the more recent theorists of World Literature. The approach will be both theoretical and applied, enabling you to encounter and examine these intellectual figures and their work, and to assess critically possible applications and relevance to your own fields of interest.

Teaching: Two hours per week, semester two
Assessment: One essay of between 4,000 and 5,000 words

Gender and Global Governance

Department: Politics

In an effort to situate feminist scholarship in the discipline of International Relations, and to develop an understanding of the implications of taking seriously feminist critiques of the study and practice of world politics, this module will explore issues of gender, governance and globalisation and make students familiar with the diverse body of scholarship that forms feminist critiques of International Relations. The module begins with an exploration of feminist theory / practice and relates this to the development of a distinctive 'canon' of feminist International Relations (IR). This theoretical engagement encourages close investigation of the ways in which feminist activists and advocates have sought in various ways - and to various effect - to influence processes of globalisation and development, and sought to have representation in arenas of global governance. The module thus interrogates the disciplines of IR, International Political Economy (IPE) and Development, and engages with a range of issues including globalisations, migration, activism and international organisation.

Teaching: Two hours per week, semester two
Assessment: One oral presentation, one 1,000-word critical review and one 4,000-word literature review or research paper

World Literatures I and II

Department: Modern Languages

These modules set out to examine World Literature and Cinema, through a range of appropriate critical investigations. How might these concepts be theoretically defined? How might they have the potential to alter established approaches to power relations, identity, socio-political order and literary canons? These modules offer a fascinating insight into one of the major literary phenomena of the modern era, through critical examination and dynamic discussion of a range of texts coming from areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Arab world and India. 

Teaching: Two hours per week, semester one (World Literatures I) and semester two (World Literatures II)
Assessment: One essay of between 4,000 and 5,000 words