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Regional Specialization: Southern Africa


Admission requirements

Free and compulsory for students enrolled in the ResMA African Studies program and for students of the 1-year MA African Studies. Those from other MA programs may be admitted with prior registration (contact coordinator)


For the understanding of Southern Africa, here defined as Africa from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Cape of Good Hope, it is necessary for the following main themes to be studied: the irrelevance of boundaries both now and in the past. Ethnic and, today, state boundaries have always been permeable. Students of the region are thus forced to look outside the most obvious units of study. They will also have to investigate the similarities and differences within Southern African kinship structures, gender relations, political ideologies etc. The variable length of colonial domination is also impotant. In some areas this lasted three hundred years, in others barely a generation. This has obvious consequences for the ways in which pre-colonial ideologies have survived. This lies at the core of the understanding of politics in the region, the prime importance of extractive industries for the economy of the region. In some places this has led to a relatively self-sustaining industrial revolution; in others the decline of the mining industry has produced urban collapse. In this, of course, the central significance of Gauteng to the region’s (and indeed the continent’s) economy cannot be over emphasised. The processes whereby technologies, material and immaterial, have been absorbed into African societies, or imposed upon them needs to be examined. This allows the understanding not merely of “development” initiatives but also of the (far more influential and successful) Christianisation of the region.
Within this framework it will be possible to investigate the political traditions and the current politics of the region, the development of economic structures across the region, and extending well beyond it, the specificities of Southern African religious life, the virulence of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, the patterns of poverty and wealth etc.

Course objectives

The course provides basic knowledge about the region in terms topics, historical processes, current events, canonical studies and recent trends in research agenda’s.


Schedule: Mondays 10.00-12.00

Mode of instruction


* The course comprises 10 EC and the total course load is thus 280 hrs * 36 hrs of these will be spent attending lectures (6 lecture of 2 hrs x for 3 regions) * 86 hrs to be spent on studying compulsory literature: 100 pages literature per week (7 pages per hour) for 6 lectures in 6 weeks * 158 hrs for writing a final paper

Assessment method

Evaluation of paper submitted at the end of the course


Blackboard Available for registered students.

Reading list

Provided a week before 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

Students are requested to register for the course and the examination through uSis


For further information and questions, contact:

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