African Studies and Anthropology Modules

Indicative module descriptions

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. 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. 

Assessment: One oral presentation, and two written assignments of 2,000 words each

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

Letting Them Speak: Ethnographies of Marginalisation

This module examines how anthropologists have tried to better represent those without a voice in society. The module departs from key debates from the 1980s in anthropology and its neighbouring disciplines, which questioned the power, authority and ethical position of the researcher. This module follows the developments of anthropological theory from the 1980s up to the present day to consider how anthropologists have tried to tackle these concerns not only through innovative methodology (from fieldwork to writing and onto public engagement) but also in their theoretical considerations of social life. As it explores how anthropologists represent the less powerful ‘other’, the module pays attention to both empirical realities shaped by power differentials (e.g. race, gender, wage labour, globalisation, sexuality) and also the conceptual frameworks employed by anthropologists (e.g. resistance, language, hope, fantasy).  

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

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 you 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/video recordings, where the text element may be reduced to 2,500 words.

Modern Ghana

You will engage with some of the most important questions in the field of African Studies, and find out how these questions might be answered in relation to a specific country, Ghana.  You will establish a chronological framework through the sessions that deal with the reasons for and responses to colonisation, the changing nature of the colonial state, and the emergence and success of anti-colonial nationalist movements. However, whilst Independence in 1957 is often seen as a dramatic break in Ghana’s modern history, this module will also identify elements of continuity into the second half of the twentieth century.  Commercial agriculture, labour migration, urbanisation, increased demand for formal education, and changing marital and family relationships were seen as ‘problems’ by both colonial and post-colonial governments. 

Through a series of individual life histories, and a range of other primary sources, you will learn how ‘real’ men and women identified the economic and social opportunities that were open to them, and responded in ways that reflected their changing understandings of what it meant to lead a successful life.  ‘Modern Ghana’ is defined as the period since 1874, and this module will provide a firm basis for students seeking to undertake doctoral research on Ghana or one of its neighbouring / comparable countries.

Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

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 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

The Social Life of the Economy

This module is not available in 2018/19

This module asks fundamental questions about everyday economic life: how humans produce, exchange, distribute and consume resources. After questioning what the economy is in the first place, we explore topics such as money, commodities, gifts and labour, seeking to explain what these mean in different social settings. From this analytical base, we interrogate the on-the-ground effects of major global political-economic changes. 

Assessment: Two 2,500-word essays

Please note that the optional module information listed here is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year and depending on your programme of study. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.