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Communication in Africa: the Power of Language & Media


Admission requirements

The course is for students in MA African Studies and ResMA African Studies students and open to others after consultations with the instructors.


In this course we put the analysis of communication at the center of the understanding of African societies and the diaspora. Communication is the core of society as it makes social interaction possible. Communication is also Power (Castells 2009).

Language is a body of signs, that mediate emotions, culture, the social. Language includes various forms from textual, to audio, to visual. Media are the carriers of language. In this course we will especially focus on changes in media technologies: from the tam-tam to the smart phone. Mediatization theory as the study of media and social change, and the power of discourse are central discussions to understand the relationship between power, media and language.

Language and media are not neutral ‘components’ of society. They are embedded in power relations and they sustain or change these. The power of language will change also in the use of different kinds of media.

The course will also focus on the methods to research language and media. The basics of sociolinguistics, of (critical)discourse analysis, and of researching media on and off-line will be discussed. These methods will be critically analysed and related to the theories of social change and communication.

The study of language and media is especially relevant for Africa because of the multiplicity of languages (Cameroon for instance has over 250 languages), the (colonial) impositions of languages and the endurance of oral traditions/orality. Communication technologies also have a specific role that is often described as the leap frog effect. ICTs landed in an often rather technologically marginal communication ecology and gave way to new forms of communication. These African traits engender choices at micro- and macro-societal levels creating social, cultural technological and language hierarchies and preferences.

The course will be both interested in teaching the theories in which we combine the different fields, and in a practical component: to introduce the students in the languages of presentation that go with these fields. The digital changed the communication landscape in Africa, but certainly also allows us to experiment with new forms of publication in visual, textual, audio and other languages that do exist next to each other.

Next to reading and presenting literature the students will as well work together around a specific research problem. They will present their work in alternative forms that are available in the digital environment.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the student has obtained:

Knowledge and understanding:
a. The role of language and media in African societies
b. Knowledge of the interdisciplinary field of language and media studies; anthropology and socio-linguistics
c. Knowledge of digital skills and digital learning environment
d. Knowledge of societal relevance

Applying knowledge and understanding
e. The ability to understand the role of language and media theories and methods relevant in African Studies in the development of independent research

Ability to formulate judgements
f. Take into account social and cultural, academic and ethical aspects relevant to the analysis of complex questions and the formulation of judgements.
Communication skills
g. Oral skills to clearly communicate the outcomes
h. Written skills to clearly communicate the outcomes
i. Visual skills to clearly communicate the outcomes

Learning skills
j. Is able and aware of the necessity to keep abreast of relevant developments in the academic and practitioners’ field.
k. Is able to assess where his/her own research/work can contribute to academic or practitioners’ fields.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Practical skills training

  • Data collection

Assessment method


  • Participation in class/readings

  • Presentation of assignments (in multi-media product)

  • Reflective paper (individual) that goes with this


  • Participation in class/readings: 30%

  • Presentation of assignments: 50%

  • Reflective paper: 20%


Inspection and feedback

Reading list

Will follow; the reading for the course will be put on brightspace three weeks before the course starts.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


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

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


Not applicable.