Undergraduate modules second and third year in African Studies and Anthropology

Second and Third Year Modules 

Perspectives on African studies

This is a student-led seminar course that takes on issues of immediate contemporary concern in Africa, focusing on the way they are debated in Africa itself and situating these debates in their global context. The emphasis will be on breaking news stories, and seminars will be based on material gathered by students from the media, internet, and recent publications. These findings will be analysed in the light of recent theoretical writing on Africa. Throughout the module, attention will be given to techniques of analysis and presentation, following on from work done in the first-year course Focus on African Studies. The second half of the module will be devoted to dissertation training in preparation for the final-year dissertation. Sessions will focus on research, writing, IT and presentations skills. All students will have the opportunity to discuss their research ideas with the module convenor, and, in order to take account of the multi-disciplinary nature of DASA, students will have the opportunity to attend smaller-group sessions targeted at those interested in different disciplinary approaches.

  • Value: 20 credits

Aid, NGOs and development

This module traces the emergence and changing nature as well as (development) significance of NGOs with reference to Africa. It explores the challenges and opportunities associated with the role of these organisations in African development policy, planning, implementation and evaluation. It also introduces students to the world of NGO work through organised visits to selected organisations and/or invited seminar presentations by NGO workers.

  • Value: 20 credits

Slavery and Freedom in Twentieth-Century Africa

This module looks at the process of emancipation from slavery in 20th-century Africa. At the beginning of the twentieth century European powers legally abolished slavery in their African colonies. However, the colonial administration refrained from enforcing anti-slavery provisions for fear that former slaves would be difficult to control and recruit (as soldiers and forced labour). Research on the ‘slow death of slavery’ suggests that a conservative alliance between former masters and colonial administrators generated new forms of exploitation for slave descendants. Anthropologists and historians who focused on these issues showed that emancipation occurred mainly as a result of the agency of ex-slaves, who developed different strategies of resistance and migrated to areas where they could control their own labour. This module focuses on the agency and experience of slaves and slave descendents. It examines primary and secondary sources on slavery and emancipation; forced labour and its reform; labour migration, diaspora, ‘proletarianisation’ and ‘peasantisation’; contributions to the study of (working) class in Africa; and research on systems of production and the sexual division of labour. Spanning across a century, it follows trajectories of emancipation in specific African regions where slave ancestry continues to have consequences for people’s identity, opportunities, and their capacity to control their labour, persons, and property. The module also considers work on human rights, citizenship, and the political mobilisation of slave descendents today.

  • Value: 20 credits

Religion and ritual

This module compares different anthropological approaches to African traditional religion and explores a number of key case studies of divination, witchcraft and rites of passage. Religion is considered both as a complex of ideas and as a form of social action. It can be a medium of political resistance, the focus of artistic activity, and a site in which ideas about the self, the person, and the past and future are crystallised. African thought systems are further explored through a study of oral literary genres such as incantations, praise poetry and divination verses. Finally we look at modern popular representations of ‘traditional religion’, and the survival and transformation of African religious ideas in the African Diaspora.

  • Value: 20 credits

African popular culture

The module looks at West African genres ranging from "traditional" oral performance arts to "modern" innovations of the colonial period such as concert parties, travelling theatre, popular fiction and popular music, in the context of 20thcentury cultural and political change. Topics covered in the second semester include theatre for development, protest genres and township culture in Eastern and Southern Africa, in the context of colonisation, apartheid and the liberation struggle. Texts and video recordings are studied in order to gain a sense of the aesthetics of these forms and the way their messages are constructed.

  • Value: 20 credits

Social life of the economy

What is the economy? In what sense can we distinguish it from other aspects of social life? How do we make sense of economic changes, and their effects on people around the world? This module asks fundamental questions about how humans produce, exchange, distribute and consume resources. After questioning what the economy is in the first place, we will explore topics such as money, commodities and gifts, seeking to explain what these things do in society. We will examine the different meanings of work in different places, and see how understandings of time lie at the heart of economic life. The broad, comparative perspective of this module enables students to rethink capitalism itself, asking questions such as: What is the market? How can we best understand globalisation? What is the everyday, social life of global finance.

  • Value: 20 credits

Independent study

Students focus on an area of specific interest. If fieldwork is involved, they may plan and carry out a project, researching it during a field trip, or work independently but under the broad direction of a departmentally appointed supervisor on an (approved) topic of interest to them. The development of appropriate research skills is encouraged and students are expected to present their work either in the form of extended essay or as a report, approximately 5000 words in length. 

  • Value: 20 credits

Rural livelihoods and development interventions in West Africa

In the first semester, this module examines changing rural geographies of household, village and regional livelihood systems. It places these changes in the context of globalisation and modernity, covering both the colonial and post-independence periods. In the second semester, we assess the 'development' interventions that aimed to transform the rural sector in specific parts of West Africa, through the agency of state and non-state actors.

  • Value: 20 credits

Theory and ethnography

Ethnography and Theory covers essential elements of social theory for Anthropology, and
anthropological theory for the Social Sciences and Humanities. It provides training in theories and theorists who have influenced anthropological thought and ethnographic research (e.g. Marx, Durkheim, Weber, etc.); and in the historical development of anthropological schools of thought in Britain, the US, and France, from the nineteenth century to the present day. It constitutes
a fundamental component of degree programmes with an anthropological focus

  • Value: 20 credits
  • Assessment: 2 x 2000 word essays

Theory, ethnography and research

Ethnography, Theory, and Research covers essential elements of social theory for Anthropology, and anthropological theory for the Social Sciences and Humanities. It provides training in theories and theorists who have influenced anthropological thought and ethnographic research (e.g. Marx, Durkheim, Weber, etc.); and in the historical development of anthropological schools of thought in Britain, the US, and France, from the nineteenth century to the present day. It constitutes a fundamental component of degree programmes with an anthropological focus. The module includes an assessed practical research project in which students put into practice what they have learned: students behave like anthropologists, making systematic observations of the social behaviour that takes place around them, and they analyse this behaviour using theoretical frameworks studied in the first half of the module. During this project work, students will receive training and support through additional contact hours.

  • Value: 40 credits, compulsory for all second-year students taking JH Anthropology programmes

South Africa since apartheid: politics and culture

This module considers developments in South Africa since the transition from apartheid in 1994. Topics include the institutional arrangements of the new state; the leadership styles of Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma, as well as the recent leadership struggles within the governing African National Congress and the direction of current politics more broadly; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and contemporary ‘race relations’; South Africa’s economic prospects; the country’s foreign policy, including its geopolitical role in Africa; immigration and xenophobia; the politics of AIDS and health services provision; land reform and restitution; struggles for gender equality and gay and lesbian rights; new patterns of consumption; witchcraft and organised religion; and trends in media, sport and the arts.

  • Value: 20 credits

South Africa in the 20th century

This module studies South Africa from the late 19th century to the end of political apartheid in 1994. The emphasis falls equally on the consolidation of settler domination and on the varieties of African initiative and resistance that shaped and challenged white rule and exploitation. Topics include the change from a predominantly rural and agricultural to an urban and industrial society; the causes and consequences of the Anglo-Boer War and their relationship to the gold mining industry; the segregationist institutions and policies of the settler dominion from 1910-1945; the meaning and making of apartheid after 1948; black nationalism at home and in exile; and the insurrections, states of emergency and negotiations that produced the new South Africa.

  • Value: 20 credits

Atlantic slavery: West Africa and the Caribbean

This modules provides an overview of the structure and volume of the transatlantic slave trade and the numbers of people it involved; describes the practices of slave-raiding, slave-trading and slave-owning in selected pre-colonial West African states; explains why the slave trade was abolished; analyzes slaves’ experience of the `middle passage’; explains the economics of plantation slavery, and explores the social and cultural life of slaves on selected Caribbean islands, including an analysis of slave rebellions.

Value: 20 credits


In this module, students will identify a topic that is of interest of them and which is appropriate to their chosen degree subject (e.g. an anthropological topic for those taking Joint Honours Anthropology programmes or Single Honours Archaeology and Anthropology, and a development studies topic for students taking Single Honours African Studies with Development). The Dissertation should be a culmination of the enquiry-based learning that has been developed in the course of their degree programme, and as such students are expected learner independence, whilst being supported by members of academic staff and by their peers. With the benefit of one-to-one meetings with an academic supervisor, and participation in student-led workshops, students will plan and execute work that culminates in a Dissertation of 10,000 words. The successful completion of a Dissertation will allow students to demonstrate the following skills which are transferable to employment or further study:

  • Project planning
  • Time management
  • Information selection, retrieval and storage (using ICT where appropriate)
  • Responding positively to feedback
  • Written communication
  • Editing and presenting a substantial piece of work (using ICT where appropriate).
  • Value: 40 credits