nl en

Thematic fields: Linking theory to research practice


Admission requirements

Compulsory for students enrolled in the ResMA African Studies programme. Those from other MA programs may be admitted with prior registration (please contact the course coordinator).


In this stage of the programme the students have started to reflect on the theoretical orientation and empirical set-up of their own field research. The course ‘Thematic Fields: Linking Theory to Research Practice’ bridges previous theoretical and methodological courses and the student’s development of an individual research proposal for fieldwork.

In the course students learn how theories are applied in Africanist research practices through the lens of selected thematic fields that are relevant for the study of Africa and allow for a multi-disciplinary approach. How do researchers in these thematic fields relate to theory while developing their research? What are guiding theories and concepts for them? And how do they work for them during the process of data gathering and analysis?

The thematic fields include Islam in Africa vs African Islam, Global Health in Africa and Markets in Africa. For each of these themes, the corpus of theories will be explored and linked to empirical researches accordingly. Assignments, partly developed in class, will guide students to understand, evaluate, analyse and apply these theories to their own research questions. The assignments will be multi modal assignments.

Each of the four themes will take 12 hours of teaching during seminars (6 x 2 hours), including in-class assignments and presentations. These are supplemented with a joint introduction and concluding lecture (2 x 2 hours).

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students: 

  • Have acquired a profound knowledge and understanding of various theories and concepts in four relevant thematic and interdisciplinary fields in African Studies and how these guide empirical research; 

  • Are able to critically apply these theoretical insights and concepts in written or multi modal essays, based on primary and/or secondary sources, written in grammatically correct language, and correctly referenced.  

  • Are able to engage in academic debate related to the selected thematic fields. 

By the end of each of the three thematic modules, students: 

Islam in Africa vs African Islam: 

  • Can critically describe and assess the differences between the concepts of “African Islam” and “islam in Africa”;

  • Have arrived at a basic understanding of the theoretical concepts of “chronotope” and “discursive tradition” and can apply them in their own research;

  • Have acquired a basic understanding of the relation between epistemic shifts in education and their repercussions for the study of Islam in Africa;

  • Can analyze a specific ritual performance and their relation to textual prescriptions in authoritative Islamic sources;

  • Can describe different politics of translating the Qur’an in African contexts.

Global Health in Africa:

  • Have obtained general knowledge of, and insight into understanding the multifaceted histories of global health in Africa as part of broader health governance and ‘global biopolitics’;

  • Understand how shifting ideas of global health links to the emergence of international human rights frameworks, development agendas and discourses;

  • Are able to employ interdisciplinary tools from anthropology, law, history and STS to understand historically produced, present-day challenges and opportunities of global health in Africa in relation to the emergent field of Digital Health.

Markets in Africa: 

  • Can describe and explain what a market is;

  • Have a basic understanding of factors and the human agency behind which shape and coordinate markets in African societies;

  • Can describe and explain how issues related to power, legitimacy, regulation and governance affect the operation and dynamics in Africa.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method

Multi modal assignments (3)


Multi modal assignments 3 x 30% = 90%
Participation 10%


Resit will be done in consultation with the course coordinator.

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

A syllabus with a reading list will be made available on Brightspace prior to the course


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


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

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