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History of ideas and institutions in Africa: The ideology and practice of power


Admission requirements

Students should have successfully completed both second-year seminars, one of which is part of the same specialisation as the present third-year seminar.


African history and anthropology meet in the analysis of ideas and institutions. The course concentrates on the basis of power in Africa, related to inequality, exclusion, based on slavery, gender, race, ethnicity, age, and related to ideologies like witchcraft, religion, political ideas, etc. In this seminar several case studies where power contestation leads to social change or to interesting moments of tension are taken as departure points for discussions and writing exercises.

Course objectives

The student can:

  • divise and conduct research of limited scope, including

    • identifying relevant literature and select and order them according to a defined principle
    • organising and using relatively large amounts of information
    • an analysis of a scholarly debate
    • placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate
  • write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Themacolleges, including

    • using a realistic schedule of work
    • formulating a research question and subquestions
    • formulating a well-argued conclusion
    • giving and receiving feedback
    • responding to instructions of the lecturer
  • reflect on the primary sources on which the literature is based

  • select and use primary sources for their own research

  • analyse sources, place and interpret them in a historical context

The student has:

  • Knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically of the place of African history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political and social institutions and ideas/ideologies;

  • Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically of the combining of historiographical debates with empirical research of primary sources and/or the combining of various historiographical traditions through the use of innovative research questions.

  • Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and methodology of the historical discipline

Course specific objectives:

  • knowledge and insight in the historiography and theory of historical-anthropology.

  • Students having successfully completed this course will be equipped with the necessary analytical insights that will enable them to conduct socio-historical research in African History


See Timetable History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

  • This course is 10 ects for History Studients;

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars, 2 hourse a week, 14 weeks is 28 hours

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 56;

  • time for completing assignments, whether in preparation at the college: 56;

  • time to write a paper (including reading / research): 140 we expect a paper as a result of independend resarch in archives, or based on ethnographic work;

Assessment method

Writing of a research paper, showing the capability of the student to conduct independent research based on primary sources (archive, interview, etnography, etc.) and academic analytical skills. The paper is also a moment to assess the students’ academic writing skills in English.
The paper and assignments also show the capability of the student to combine anthropology and history; it will show his or her indepth knowledge of a topic related to the theories and examples presented during the lectures and in the reading, which will all indicate a deepening of the student’s knowledge of Africa in the World.

The assignments during the course will be developed around the several components of the paper. These assignments will also show the students’ more general knowledge of Africa in the World and the application of the interdisciplinary model ‘ History-Anthropology’.

assessment of performance:

  • Assignments (during course) (30 %)

  • Paper based on independent research. (60 %)

  • Presentation of research in a workshop at the end of the course (10 %)

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average combined with the additional requirement that the essay has to be sufficient.

The student will have a chance to rewrite the paper in case of an insufficient mark. The deadline for re-examination of the final paper (History students) will be published on the website of the Institute for History (see website History – roosters – overzicht deadlines.


Blackboard , for communication, posting assignments, announcements, probably a chatbox.

Reading list

Will follow, announcement on Blackboard


Through uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


mw. Prof.dr. M.E. de Bruijn
dhr. Prof.dr. J.B. Gewald


Students wishing to follow this course would be advised to have succesfully completed the first or second year history subjects dealing with the introduction to African History