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Second year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Methodological Specialisation 10
Seminar: Writing Research Proposal 5
The Field of African Studies and Interdisciplinarity Part 1. Aims and results of Africanist research 10
The field of African Studies and Interdisciplinarity Part 2. Processes of Africanist research 5

Thematic Specialisations * choose 1 from

Culture and Modernity 15
Development and Socio-Economic Changes 15
Patterns of Power 15

Regional Specialisations * choose 2 from

Regional Specialization: East Africa 10
Regional Specialization: Southern Africa 5
Regional Specialization: West Africa 5

Second year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Research Master: Thesis African Studies 30
Research Project: Fieldwork 25
Seminar: Academic Publication 5

More info



The Research Master in African Studies introduces students to a range of curricular
and career options in the field of African Studies and to a wide network of researchers
and their current academic work. Leading scholars from the African Studies Centre
in Leiden, and from the Universities of Leiden, Wageningen, Utrecht, Nijmegen,
Amsterdam (VU) and Leuven are involved in the programme in a teaching and/or
supervisory capacity. Participating staff members’ research projects are central to the
programme and allow students to come into contact with and work alongside scholars at
the front line of African Studies. The programme’s interdisciplinary approach is crucial
in bridging the gap between the humanities and the social sciences and various research
methods, offering a combination of courses and the in-depth study of a particular theme
and region. The programme is aimed at talented and highly motivated students who
have already undertaken the required preparatory degree courses. Having successfully
completed the research master’s programme, students will be qualified to engage in
research at an academic level (it is the ideal preparation for future PhD candidates), or
work in the government sector or for an NGO.



During the two-year programme (120 ects), students specialise in a topic and a region.
After two interdisciplinary courses in the first semester (September-December), they
choose one of three tracks: ‘Patterns of Power’, ‘Culture and Modernity’ or ‘Development
and Social Change’ (see below) in the second semester (January-June). A main
and a secondary regional specialisation – West Africa, Eastern Africa or Southern
Africa –is selected. Parallel to these thematic and regional courses, students attend a
methodological course and start to write a research proposal.

In the first semester of the second year, they carry out their own research under the
supervision of a researcher from their chosen field of study. The programme provides
options for research in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali
and Cameroon, but also in archives in Oxford, Aix-en-Provence and London, and at the
Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. Research can also take place
within an institutional framework such as the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

The second year of the programme is concluded with the writing of a thesis and a related
article, policy document or PhD research proposal based on the student’s research
project. Also see:


Patterns of Power

This specialisation revolves around the way in which people in Africa have developed
ideas and mechanisms of power over time. It is a point of debate as to whether and how
far colonial types of administration have assimilated older indigenous techniques of
domination or whether in fact the reverse process has taken place. The historical roots of
various current crises will also be investigated. The course consists of three modules:
i) the long-term relationship between human beings and their environment,
ii) the relationship between Africa and the outside world,
iii) the establishment and survival of African ideologies of power.

Culture and Modernity

This programme provides an introduction to the analysis of the notions of ‘modernity’
and ‘tradition’, both of which are problematic in Africa. 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 the African
context. The central topics of research are the implementation of modern institutions
in Africa, the ‘invention of tradition’, the effects of ideologies of modernity, and the
changes and development of notions of personhood and belonging in modern African
society. Subsequent elaboration will be on the basis of two important focus points that
characterise this field of studies in the Netherlands and Belgium: art, popular culture and
the mass media, and the study of global religions in Africa.

Development and Social Change

Development is a complex phenomenon. It is an on-going process in which negotiation
and conflict between institutions and individuals are central. Development can thus be
seen as the arena in which social, political and economic processes take place at different
levels, from the international to the local. In the first module, ideas about development
in Africa and in particular the relationship between technical knowledge and social
engineering are placed in a social and historical context. The second module looks at
processes of differentiation and negotiation related to a variety of social and natural
resources. The third module deals with forms of vulnerability: how people deal with and
anticipate precarious situations, and how large-scale (multilateral) interventions, for
example in war and drought, affect local settings.