MSc African Studies Core Course 2

Themes in African History and Social Sciences

 This course introduces students to major debates in the contemporary study of Africa, aiming to set these issues within their historical, social and cultural contexts. The approach is necessarily selective, but features many of the most important and influential scholarly works on Africa arranged around four central themes. The selected themes reflect key areas of academic and public debate, and fields in which there is a lively and often contested literature:

The State in Africa: The first five weeks of the course introduce students to key features of the historical background to contemporary Africa. We begin with the formation of the colonial state, its “modernising” mission, resistance to colonialism, nationalism and independence. The course then analyses authoritarianism, patrimonialism, and the cold war. The last three weeks of the first term focus on more contemporary themes, and debates surrounding them, such as economic liberalisation, political liberalisation and democratisation.

Lectures will focus on identifying historical continuities and critical junctures in the evolution of the African state, and cover a broad range of key themes:

  •  the character of the colonial state;
  •  the hopes (and failures) of the nationalist state project;
  •  the politics of economic crisis during the Cold War era;
  • why African states ‘failed’;
  • the ways in which African leaders attempt to mobilize their supporters;
  • structural adjustment and its impact on Africa;
  • the feasibility of democracy in Africa.

Contemporary Social Issues: A critical analysis of key areas of debate on contemporary Africa continues during Hilary Term. We will first look at ethnicity and other forms of identity in Africa, to understand its modern rather than primordial nature. The course also investigates debates over the most potent images of Africa’s suffering today: civil war, famine, agricultural stagnation and struggles over land, HIV-Aids, the informal economy and the lack of decent jobs, forced migration as well as voluntary migration.

Lectures cover a range of key themes, including:

  • reasons for African mobility, including forced migration;
  • identity and ethnicity in Africa;
  • the relationship between historical grievances, natural resources, elections, and civil war;
  • the relationship between land reform, famine, and political stability;
  • the political economy of epidemics.
This core course will be taught by a mixture of 16 1-hour lectures and 16 participatory classes, running through Michaelmas and Hilary Terms. Students will be expected to prepare short presentations for the classes, and to hand-in non-assessed work based on these presentations. The essays are a requirement of matriculation for the course, and failure to complete the work set may result in being debarred from the examination.  Two essays of no more than 3,000 words, must be submitted, the first by the end of Week 5 of Michaelmas Term and the second by the end of Week 8 of Hilary Term. For these essays, students are given a choice of essay questions in advance and are allowed to select topics of interest, although the two essays must focus on different topics.
A third essay is ‘unseen’. For this essay students are given an unseen set of questions on Tuesday of Week 8 of Michaelmas Term. Students are required to select one question and prepare an answer of no more than 4,000 words by Friday Week 0 of Hilary Term.
Key preliminary readings for this course include: 

Ake, Claude, Development and Democracy in Africa (Washington, 1996)

Barnett, Tony & Alan Whiteside, AIDS in the Twenty-First Century: Disease and Globalization (Basingstoke, 2006)

Berman, Bruce, Dickson Eyoh & Will Kymlicka (eds.), Ethnicity and Democracy in Africa (Oxford, 2003)

Bratton, Mike & Nicholas Van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime transitions in comparative perspective (Cambridge, 1997)

De Bruijn, Mirjam, Rijk van Dijk & Dick Foeken, Mobile Africa: Changing Patterns of Movement in Africa and Beyond (Leiden, 2001)

Chabal, Patrick & Jean-Pascal Deloz, Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument

(Oxford, 1999)

           Cooper, Frederick, Africa Since 1945: The past of the present (Cambridge, 2002)

           Davis, Mike, Planet of Slums (London, 2006)

Engberg-Pedersen, Poul et al., Limits of Adjustment in Africa: the effects of economic liberalization 1986-94 (Oxford, 1996), ch.3

Eriksen, Thomas H., Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives (London, 2002)

Ferguson, James, Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt (Berkeley, 1999)

Herbst, Jeffrey, States and Power in Africa (Princeton, 2000)

Iliffe, John, Africans: The History of a Continent (2ndedition, Cambridge, 2007)

Kalipeni, Ezekiel et al. (eds.), HIV & AIDS in Africa: Beyond Epidemiology (Oxford, 2004)

Koser, Khalid (ed.), New African Diasporas (London, 2003)

MacGaffey, Janet & Rémy Bazenguissa-Ganga, Congo-Paris: Transnational Traders on the Margins of the Law (Oxford, 2000).

Malkki, Liisa H., (1995) Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania (Chicago, 1995)

Mamdani, Mahmood,. Citizen and Subject (London, 1996)

Manchuelle, François, Willing Migrants: Soninke Labor Diasporas, 1848-1960 (Oxford, 1996)

Mbembe, Achille. On the Postcolony (London & Berkeley, 2001)

de Waal, Alex. Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa (Oxford, 1997)

World Bank, Adjustment in Africa (Washington DC, 1994)

Westad, Odd Arne, The Global Cold War (Cambridge, 2005) chs 3, 6, 7