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The Field of African Studies and Interdisciplinarity Part 2. Processes of Africanist research


Admission requirements

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


African studies is an interdisciplinary field. It combines disciplines from the social sciences, humanities and to a lesser extent the natural sciences. In this course of 15 ECTs the students will be introduced to the practice of interdisciplinary research, often collaborative work. The students will get acquainted with different research methods, that are often combined in interdisciplinary research (mixed methods) and in the last block the students will be introduced into the operationalization of research, where a research problematic will be linked to methodologies and techniques; how do we operationalize a research question into practical research? The course has three major parts.

Part I:
In the first two weeks of this course the students will be familiarized with the various interdisciplinary approaches that have formed African Studies in the 20iest century. Two historical examples of research programmes in Africa and three examples from the past two decades will introduce the students not only to interdisciplinary fields but also to their methodologies. It will become clear that a study in this field often uses various methods. Interdisciplinarity goes with mixed methods. The examples combine quantitative and qualitative methods or they combine historical methods and ethnography. As such, they help to demonstrate that research is guided by the type of data collected which in turn shapes the analysis to a certain extent.
At the end of the fist five lectures the students present an interdisciplinary research plan/programme, that they have prepared based on the reading of literature that are the outcomes of an existing interdisciplinary research programme (this is an assignment made in groups of 4-5 students).

Part II:
This comprises three weeks during which students are introduced to various techniques of research methods. The presentations from research of the lecturers are combined with practical exercises and assignments.

Part III:
The third block of three lectures and three assignment presentations deals with the operationalization of research problematic and questions. How to translate data into knowledge? What can be learnt from the various types of data gathered with the variable techniques that are part of the mixed methods in relation to research questions?

Course objectives

Students will learn how to situate research groups, research agenda’s and methodological choices in their historical and social contexts.
Students will have to learn (a) in what way epistemology differs from, but relates to “methods and techniques”; (b) how they can think about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research (validity vs. representatively); © specific relevance of these methodological issues for research in Africa.


Schedule: Mondays and Thursday; (10.00- 13.00 and 14.00-17.00)

Mode of instruction

Lectures and Seminar:
The course consists of three major parts. Part I will focus on interdisciplinarity and it will be studied in the first two weeks, in six consecutive lectures of 3 hours and one seminar day at the end of the module in which students’ assignment papers are discussed. Part II deals with techniques and methods and it will have a duration of 2 ½ weeks. This part comprises six lectures and three assignment-discussion meetings, each comprising three hours. Part III is on operationalization and it involves three lectures (two hours each) and three seminar afternoons (14.00 – 17.00 hrs).

* The course comprises 15 EC and the total course load is thus 420 hrs * 124 hrs of these will be spent attending lectures and seminars (~17 hrs per week x 7 weeks) * 100 hrs to be spent on studying compulsory literature: 100 pages literature per week (7 pages per hour) * 196 hrs research and writing assignment papers

Assessment method

The three parts of the course are evaluated on the basis of the assignments. Part I has one assignment, i.e. the reconstruction of an interdisciplinary research programme. Students work in a group of three or four on the development of a research proposal for an interdisciplinary research, to be presented at the end of Part I. On the basis of literature of a finalized research project the students reconstruct the proposal with which the research started. Next to this assignment, Part II and III each have three assignments.


Blackboard Available for registered students.

Reading list

Provided a week before classes start 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


Part I and II of this course will be coordinated by Dr. Harry Wels and Par III by Dr. Erik Bähre.

For further information, contact:

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