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Researching Africa in the 21st Century


Admission requirements

Students of the MA African Studies. Others after consultations with the instructor


African studies is a multi- and inter-disciplinary field of knowledge production. This means that students have to learn different “languages” of doing research that are accompanied by different theories, methodologies and methods. In this course we will discuss these languages and see how we apply them to understand a problem, or an object of study. In our curriculum we aim at acquaintance with the following disciplines that combine in different interdisciplinary fields: History, Politics, Economics, Geography, Literature studies, Cultural studies, Linguistics, Anthropology. The interdisciplinary combinations that we put central are: political history; geography and economics; Cultural studies (includes also literature/film/media studies); Socio-linguistics and Media studies.
Each discipline has its methodology and methods, so it is important for an Africanist to understand the various methods of the other disciplines and to be able to work with them. In this course we discuss the implication of methodological choices for the formulation of research and choices for theory and methods, and hence the ‘data’ that are gathered and form the ‘corpus’ for the research outcomes.

These discussions are situated in the debate on what the Digital environment has changed in our research practices. First of all the digital has transformed the research ‘field’. The digital and physical spaces are an integrated part of many lifeworlds and we cannot separate these. This has implications for the way we see and interpret the world (methodology and theory) and the way we approach the world as researchers (methods). The tools to do research have expanded with easy audio, photo and video; computer, i-pads etc. make text also a different experience than a pen and paper. The field has expanded to digital archives, big data, social media, ‘open scienc’e, etc.

In this course we will give attention to:
1. What are the disciplinary approaches that are used in multi- and inter-disciplinarity and how does this work in practice; What are the epistemological puzzles? How do these approaches change in the digital?
2. What is the field in Africanist research combining the physical and the digital spaces?
3. What is mixed methods, which (digital) techniques go with it? How does method go with types of data? How do digital and non-digital data relate?

This course will discuss: epistemologies in African Studies, Interdisciplinarities in African studies, methodological choices, ethical questions; in relation to a world that increasingly virtualizes/digitizes. We will discuss the process of research and the relation between research questions- theory - data- fieldwork- mixed methods- written and visualized texts. The course consists of lectures, prepared with readings, and discussions prepared by the students. Students are expected to have an active and participatory attitude. For each lecture students to a ‘research’ exercise, and the course is closed with a reflective paper, in which students also show their choices in the path they want to follow in African Studies.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the student has obtained:

Knowledge and understanding:
a. Africa studies and interdisciplinarity and epistemologies that go with it
b. Knowledge of multi- and interdisciplinary research
c. Knowledge of digital skills and digital learning environment
d. Knowledge of societal relevance

Applying knowledge and understanding
e. The ability to understand the role of theory/concepts, methodology, and research methods relevant in African Studies in the development of independent research

Ability to formulate judgements
f. Take into account social and cultural, academic and ethical aspects relevant to the analysis of complex questions and the formulation of judgements.
g. Reflect on methodological, historical and ethical-social aspects of African Studies.

Communication skills
h. Oral skills to clearly communicate the outcomes
i. Written skills to clearly communicate the outcomes
j. Visual skills to clearly communicate the outcomes

Learning skills
k. Has the learning skills to continue further study at a professional level / start a PhD
l. Is able and aware of the necessity to keep abreast of relevant developments in the academic and practitioners’ field.
m. Is able to assess where his/her own research/work can contribute to academic or practitioners’ fields.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Practical skills training

  • Data collection

Assessment method

Participation in class: (20%)
Presentation of readings: (10%)
Presentation of assignments (in multi-media product) (40%)
And the reflective paper (individual) that goes with this: (30%)


We will use bright space to exchange the assessments, to communicate, to make a platform Blackboard will be used for:

  • communication

  • exchange of assessments

  • network
    And we will work with a portfolio for the students on the Innovative Research Methods website:

Reading list

Will follow; the reading for the course will be put on brightspace three weeks before the course starts


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions related to the content of the course, please contact the lecturer, you can find their contact information by clicking on their name in the sidebar.

For questions regarding enrollment please contact the Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

For questions regarding your studyprogress please contact the Coordinator of Studies