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Culture and Modernity


Admission requirements

Free and compulsory for students enrolled in the RESMAAS program. Those from other MA programs may be admitted with prior registration (contact coordinator)


One major focus of research and debate on Africa has been on the ways in which the so-called particularities of culture and the so-called universality of modernity relate to each other in African contexts. The central topics of research in this track are the implementation of modern institutions in Africa, the “invention of tradition”, the effects of ideologies of modernity, the changes and development of notions of personhood and belonging in modern African society, the role and development of popular culture, imported technologies and mass media in Africa, and the changing face of religion in African contexts. The emphasis of this research theme lies on the complex interactions of economic, political and cultural processes on the different scales of global, national and local developments in Africa. The course provides an introduction to the general theme of the analysis of the notions of “modernity” and “tradition”, both problematised, in Africa, and subsequently elaborates it on the basis of the two most important foci of research that characterize this field of studies in the Netherlands and Belgium: art, popular culture and mass media, and the study of global religion in Africa.

Course objectives

On the basis of a thorough overview of recent debates and the current state of the study in this specialized field, students build up their own thematic specialization allowing them to prepare and formulate their future research project to be carried out in the third semester. The course prepares the students for the writing of his or her research proposal.


Schedule: Mondays 12:30-14:30 and Thursdays: 11:00-13:00. Timetables
Detailed information on starting dates of courses can be found on Blackboard after registration.

Mode of instruction

The course runs for three months, from January until March, consisting of three modules of four weekly blocks. A block consists of a presentation by one or more lecturers on the Monday (two hours) after which assignments are handed out to students who have the time to work on them for two days before the workshop meetings (11.00-13.00) on Thursday. They will draft a text of about three pages that serves as an aid-memoir for their presentation.On Friday, they prepare for the meeting on Monday. Compulsory reading: 150 pages per week, supplemented with recommended reading to be used for drafting the final paper and the preparation for the individual research project.
In conjunction to the course students will work on their research proposal and at the end of the track they will draft the theoretical and methodological propositions of their research projects. The course ends with presentations of the draft of the research proposal to a team of senior researchers.

Assessment method

Weekly assignments, paper and draft of the research proposal


Available for registered students.

Reading list

Provided on the first meeting of class and posted on Blackboard


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. Azeb Amha
Academic Coordinator
P O Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, NL
Tel. +31-71-527-3364