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Introduction to African Studies


Admission requirements



Africa is a vast and the oldest continent of the world. It has diverse histories, a multitude of cultural and social practices, and it is the continent with the highest diversity of languages of the world. Post-colonial history of Africa has been turbulent, and today the 54 countries of the continent each have their own experiences somehow still deeply connected to their colonial history. The study of Africa should count in this diversity, as a consequence it is a field of interdisciplinary studies. In this course we explore the study of Africa in its multifaceted way. We focus on approaches from socio-linguistics, history-anthropology and literature studies. We will, through this humanities lens, touch on economic and geographical approaches. We will highlight some current debates on colonial history and heritage, which is closely related with the decolonization of the academia; another important development is the digitization and consequences it has for knowledge production on and with Africa. Another central debate is around African ontologies and the difference with more western ontologies that are dominant in knowledge production about Africa.
The course consists of 12 seminars and lectures. In the first block we will go through some important debates, and in the second block key lecturers from our programme will introduce a topic, that we will discuss. Part of the sessions will be in the form of seminars where students prepare a presentation based on the readings for the course to introduce a discussion on these readings.
This course is also meant to orient the students in their choices in our programme. Therefore the mid-term exam will be a take home exam with open essay questions, where the student can define the orientations so far and what the students have taken from the courses.
The final exam is a paper of 3000 words in which the students make a choice for one orientation and reflect on it; the students base the paper on the exploration of literature from the course and literature of their own choice.

Course objectives

The course orients students in the field of African studies and gives them enough information to be able to orient their choices in the programme. After the course students are introduced in the main debates of African Studies relevant for the programme. The students have a better idea of the programme and their possible choices and they have a basic idea of ‘what is the study of Africa’.


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Active Participation/coöperation in class/group (20% of the final mark)

  • Take home examination/assignment (30% of the final mark)

  • Oral presentation of assignments in class (20% of the final mark)

  • Essay, paper (3000 words max) (30% of the final mark)


The course has as the objective to make students aware of the field of African studies and allow them to make a good reasoned choice in their studies; They should as well have a basic idea of the field in terms of literature, film, novels. This is what will be the core of the assessment.


(see for percentages above)


In case of resit; the take home exam and the paper can be produced on a later moment.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand will follow with the full syllabus


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Reuvensplaats