Proseminar in African Studies
This course seeks to broaden our understanding of both historical and contemporary Africa, allowing a forum for the exchange of ideas among participants drawn from a diversity of disciplines. Course themes may include colonialism and its legacies; performance and culture; natural resource extractive practices and environmental degradation; nationalism, politics and development; and urbanization. Rather than treating ‘Africa’ as an undifferentiated place of socio-economic malaise, famine and war, failed states, and distorted urbanism, the course seeks to understand the complexity of processes at work that produces the “Africa” of today. Besides focusing on substantive topics of contemporary relevance, the course also critically investigates the application and the ethics of diverse theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Africa. We will explore the pitfalls and challenges of ethnography, fieldwork, controlled comparisons, survey research, and experiments. We will also revisit debates about “area studies” and African exceptionalism that periodically resurface in the literature on Africa. This course is required for the Masters in International and Regional Studies Africa Subplan as well as a graduate certificate in African Studies. Students who have taken the course to receive priority when DAAS makes funding decisions on research grants for graduate students. No specialized knowledge of Africa or special background is required. Students will be evaluated through a combination of written assignments and class participation.