African Studies and Anthropology Modules


Advanced Perspectives on Africa

This 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. It draws students and faculty together into discussion and criticism of current research on Africa. 

Assessment: Written assignment

African Fiction and its Critics

This course examines the development of the African novel in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Working with texts from across the continent, the course explores the engagement of the African novel with key issues such as history, slavery, colonialism, gender and sexuality, postcolonial politics, religion, genre fiction and the construction of nationhood. The course examines the progression of these issues through mapping the work of earlier canonised figures against that of the younger generation of writers emerging in the 80s and 90s, and a ‘third generation’ of writers since then. Writers that may be studied include Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Ama Ata Aidoo, Sembene Ousmane, Nurudeen Farah, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Yvonne Vera, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and other contemporary African writers, although the particular literary texts chosen for study may vary from year to year dependent on students’ interests. These texts will be discussed in the context 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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

Assessment: Presentation and written assignments

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). 

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.

Assessment: One 1,000-word historiographical commentary and one 4,000-word essay

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.

Assessment: One essay of 4,000-5,000 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.

Assessment: Presentation and written assignments

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. 

Assessment: One essay of 4,000-5,000 words (per module)