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Thematic Fields: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations


Admission requirements

Compulsory for students enrolled in the RESMA African Studies programme. Those from other MA programs may be admitted with prior registration (please contact the course coordinator).


In this stage of the programme the students have started to reflect on the theoretical orientation and empirical set-up of their own field research. In order to facilitate their choices, but also to ‘discover’ what theory is and how this links to empirical research, the students will be introduced to the conceptual/ theoretical considerations and choices and concrete research of various senior Africanist researchers. How did they relate to theory while developing their research? What were the guiding theories and concepts for them? And how did they work for them during the process of data gathering and analysis? The course therefore bridges previous theoretical and methodological courses and the student’s development of an individual research proposal for fieldwork.

The course is organized around three thematic fields that are relevant for the study of Africa and allow for a multi-disciplinary approach, i.e., Markets in Africa; Forgotten Histories of Decolonisation in/of Africa; and Travelling Texts from across Africa. For each of these themes, the corpus of theories will be explored and linked to empirical researches accordingly. Assignments, partly developed in class, will guide students to understand, evaluate, analyse and apply these theories to their own research questions. The assignments will be written or multi modal essays.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students:

  • Have acquired a profound knowledge and understanding of various theories and concepts in three relevant thematic and interdisciplinary fields in African Studies and how these guide empirical research;

  • Are able to critically apply these theoretical insights and concepts in written or multi modal essays, based on primary and/or secondary sources, written in grammatically correct language, and correctly referenced.

  • Are able to engage in academic debate related to the selected thematic fields.

By the end of each of the three specific modules, students:

Markets in Africa:

  • Can describe and explain what a market is.

  • Arrive at a basic understanding of factors and the human agency behind which shape and coordinate markets in African societies.

  • Can describe and explain how issues related to power, legitimacy, regulation and governance affect the operation and dynamics in Africa.

  • Can demonstrate and apply their acquired knowledge in an analysis of a particular market or market actor in a selected African society.

Forgotten histories of decolonisation in/of Africa:

  • Have obtained general knowledge of, and insight into understanding the of decolonisation of Africa from different angles and as a silenced or at least partly forgotten history.

  • Have developed an insight in the historical roots of contemporary political processes in Africa and will be able to grasp and work with relevant conceptualisations found in other disciplines used in the analysis. (Past in the present)

Travelling texts from across Africa:

  • Can describe the circulation of manuscripts and printed texts in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Have arrived at a basic understanding of transmission of knowledge and book market network.

  • Have acquired a basic understanding of the relation between texts and intellectual history.

  • Can analyze a specific textual form and its public consumption within and across a specific trans-local African community.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture/seminar

  • Field excursion

Assessment method

  • papers (3)

  • Participation (10%)


  • papers - 3 x 30 % = 90 %

  • participation - 10 %


Resit will be done in consultation with the course coordinator.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

A syllabus with a reading list will be made available on Brightspace prior to the course.


Enrolment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration 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