African Studies and Anthropology Modules

Advance Perspectives on Africa

This module deals with areas of concern and debate in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. It is hinged around the concept of the 'postcolony' (and the literature concerning it) and its relationship to evolving political cultures and ideas about and/or exemplary instances of articulations in the public sphere. You will be asked to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to your guided and independent reading, then to identify and develop case studies of especial interest to you and to research these in the relevant literatures. The module will make featured use of research in and resources drawn from the Internet so as to explore areas of concern and debate in the immediately contemporary context of 'breaking news.'

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, you will explore the engagement of the African novel with key issues such as history, slavery, colonialism, gender, postcolonial politics and the construction of nationhood. The module 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 80’s and 90’s. Writers to be studied include Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ama Ata Aidoo, Sembene Ousmane, Nurudeen Farah, Abdulrazak Gurnah and Yvonne Vera.

Caribbean Fiction

This module examines the development of the Caribbean novel in the twentieth-century. Working with texts from Anglophone, Francophone, and Hispanophone territories, you will explore the engagement of the Caribbean novel with key issues such as slavery colonialism, postcolonial politics and the construction of nationhood. The module examines the progression of these issues through mapping the work of earlier canonized figures against that of a younger generation of writers emerging in the 80’s and 90’s. Writers to be studied include George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Alejo Carpentier, Juan Bosch, Antonio Benítez Rojo, Maryse Conde and Reinaldo Arenas.

Caribbean Poetry

This module examines the development of the Caribbean poem in the twentieth-century. Working with texts from Anglophone, Francophone, and Hispanophone territories, you will explore the engagement of Caribbean poetry with issues of language - the debate between 'nation language' and 'standard English'; of style - the 'Caribbean sonnet' or the dub rant; of production - Faber & Faber or Island Records, and, underlying all of these, of audience - ways in which it/they/we are defined and respond to such writings. Poets to be discussed include Derek Walcott, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Martin Carter, Aime Cesaire, Nicolás Guillén, Rene Depestre and Astrid Roemer.

Contemporary Gender Issues in Africa

This module provides you with a critical and analytical knowledge of gender relations in African states and societies, particularly in the light of different strands of theoretical feminist work and work on masculinities and, through specific examples, looks at the significance of gender as an axis for analysis in policy areas in African contexts.

History and Politics of Southern Africa

This module examines contemporary Southern African societies and politics in their nineteenth- and twentieth-century historical contexts. The emphasis is on the emergence of modern South Africa’s system of racial domination and its effects on government and economic development in the broader Southern African region. We also analyse the varieties of African resistance that shaped and challenged the mechanisms of settler control. In addition to South Africa’s continuing geopolitical influence, topics linking the region’s past and present will include the alienation of land, migration and labour mobilisation, the political economy of health, and changes in gender relations.

Independent Study

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

Media and Popular Culture in Africa

Offering you the opportunity to engage with popular texts and performances in contemporary African genres, this module is run as a series of seminars, each meeting focusing on the discussion of a selected text or assemblage of materials (audio, video, performance transcription). 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. Drawing on translations of recorded performances, videos of live performance events, local publications, photographs, and ethnographies of performance, this module will explore theories of improvisation and popular creativity in Africa today. Literary and performance genres will be related to contemporary social and political developments in Africa.

Modern Ghana

This module engages with important questions in African Studies through an in-depth focus on one country, Ghana. It explores the history of colonisation, the emergence and success of anti-colonial nationalist movements, and Ghana since independence. Using life histories and other primary sources, we will find how ‘real’ men and women identified the social and economic opportunities that were open to them, and responded in ways that reflected their changing understandings of what it meant to lead a successful life.

Reading African Poetry

By examining a broad selection of 20th century poetry written in English by African writers and considering the ways in which it has been read and might be read – in relation to a range of literary theories about the writing, reading and meaning of poetry – you will come to some understanding of the characteristics and qualities of African poetry in English. Questions relating to cultural context, language (both in the broad political sense and in relation to particular poetic usages), notions of form and ideas of purpose, audience and commitment will be explored. Critical and theoretical writings by African poets and critics will provide starting points for discussion. Poets whose work will be read might include Kofi Awoonor, Okot p’Bitek, Christopher Okigbo, Ama Ata Aidoo, Dennis Brutus, Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clarke, Niyi Osundare, Timothy Wangusa, Kojo Laing, Abena P.A. Busia. You will also have an opportunity to attend relevant poetry readings in the CWAS Cultural Events programme.  

Research Skills and Methods in African Studies

This 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 analyzing findings; and writing up

Trajectories of Emancipation in Twentieth Century West Africa 

This module looks at the process of emancipation from slavery in twentieth century West Africa. At the beginning of the twentieth century European powers legally abolished slavery in their West 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).

West Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade 

We use primary sources and secondary literature to study the operation of a trade that removed approximately 12 million human beings from West Africa. You will critically analyse the economic, political, social and cultural impact of the Atlantic slave trade on West African societies, gaining familiarity with particular geographical areas through the use of case studies.

Yoruba Culture

The Yorùbá-speaking people of western Nigeria form one of the largest and most culturally dynamic ethno-linguistic groups in Africa. This module covers selected topics in Yorùbá society, politics and history from the era of the early city states to the twenty-first century, with a focus on Yorùbá towns and families, livelihoods, religion, literature, popular culture and the Yorùbá presence in the UK today.