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Language and Communication in Africa


Admission requirements

This course is compulsory for students in the Research Master African Studies, and an elective for students in the Master African Studies. Other students can be admitted after consultation with the course coordinators.


Human interaction which is the basis of human sociality is dominated by the use of language. Language is a tool for communication and experience. In using language in social interaction, speakers make various choices with respect to form (signals, varieties, genres, media, etc.) and the effects they might want to create (i.e. their communicative goals). Changes in Information and Communication Technology are an important factor shaping the context and means for such choices. Language is shaped by culture, emotion, politics, and technologies of communication. Language is both object of study, and it is the means through which we study, i.e. methodology and method. The study of language and communication is an interdisciplinary field in the humanities, cognitive and social sciences where (socio)linguistics, anthropology, communication studies, digital studies and history meet.

The study of language and communication 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 interesting in the combination of theoretical and methodological approaches from different fields, and in a practical component: to introduce the students in the “languages” and modes of presentation that go with these fields. The digital allows us to experiment with new forms of publication in visual, textual, audio and other languages do exist next to each other. In this course we will give attention to the ways we publish in the digital age.

Next to reading and discussing 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. There will be assistance for the students to be able to manage their alternative publication.

For the academic year 2020-2021 we propose to work on the theme ‘Cultural Violence’. This is a concept that is introduced by J. Galtung in an article in 1990. In short it means the legitimation of structural and direct violence through all kind of discursive expression forms. It is about discourses on the social media, knowledge production in schools, but also in communities, it can as well take a form of popular art/culture, etc. The concept will be discussed during the course and students will develop their own project within this concept or field of studies.

Course objectives

General Learning Objectives:

The student will acquire the ability to:

  1. Formulate judgements, based on a question or problem in the field of African Studies, even when the student has insufficient or limited information, by taking into account social and cultural, academic and ethnical responsibilities linked to the student’s own application of knowledge and judgement.

  2. Clearly communicate, both in oral and written/visual/audio form, the outcomes based on the students own academic research, knowledge, motifs, and considerations to professionals as well as the broader public.

  3. Further knowledge on ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork in the digital and non-digital
    environment. Learning skills pertaining to the course:

  4. The student will obtain proven knowledge of an interdisciplinary insight, anthropology, media studies, (socio) linguistics, into the societies and cultures of Africa

  5. The students will show that they master ethnographic and discourse methods in gathering and analysing data for the research paper/product;

  6. The student will obtain the ability to apply knowledge, insights and different methods from the discipline linguistics and anthropology within the domain of African Studies, in order to solve problems, integrate knowledge and deal with complex matters

  7. The student can apply theoretical and methodological issues from an interdisciplinary
    perspective in a chosen form that fit the multiple modes of publication that the digital offers;


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Multi-media end product (group work)

  • Individual critical assessment


Both 50%


Submit an extra task to be determined.

Inspection and feedback

By email (students will be in Africa when their products have been graded).

Reading list

To be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


For questions related to the content of the course, please contact the lecturer, you can find their contact information by clicking on their name in the sidebar.

For questions regarding enrollment please contact the Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats
E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

For questions regarding your studyprogress please contact Annelies de Koning the Coordinator of Studies