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Politics and Development: Coming of Age in Africa


Admission requirements

None required, but Institutions of Governance and Development is highly recommended.


This course explores gender, generation, and human development in sub-Saharan Africa through an anthropological life course perspective that puts the lives, experiences, and sentiments of men and women, young and old, at the center of our investigations. A gendered life course approach, within a distinctively anthropological orientation, emphasizes the importance of time, context, process, and meaning to human experience and to human development. Each week will be devoted to a different stage in the ageing process: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood, and elderhood. Students will combine the study of common human development metrics with ethnographic investigations into topics as diverse as birth and belonging, child nurturing and attachment, child labor, education, love and sexuality, rites of passage, marriage, work, motherhood and fatherhood, retirement, and widowhood. Through individual case study research, students will be given the opportunity to explore topics and settings of their own choosing. This course aims to provide students with an introduction to sub-Saharan Africa, African development, and demographic anthropology. It is designed to stimulate students to identify, understand, and reflect on African development challenges and opportunities at the nexus of individual lives, situated structural contexts, and rapid social change.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Be able to discuss some core metrics used to measure human development over the life course and be comfortable identifying and extracting figures from commonly used international databases;

  • Have developed an understanding of what the trends are in such metrics, specific to sub-Saharan Africa;

  • Be familiar with selected conceptual, theoretical, and methodological skills used in the social sciences to analyze development through a gendered life course approach;

  • Be able to apply these skills to reflect critically on how these trends relate to the diversity of everyday lives and experiences of males and females, young and old, across the continent;

  • Be able to critically reflect, present, and debate on various African development issues;

  • Be able to synthesize course materials with cumulative case study research to produce a final research essay


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught in two-hour interactive seminar sessions twice a week. Seminar sessions will include an introductory lecture, discussions of assigned readings, and student led debate presentations.

Assessment Method

Individual participation, 15%
Two essays, 40%
Individual Presentation, 15%
Final Essay, 30%

Reading list

All students must purchase Marjorie Shostak’s book:

  • Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman.

All remaining readings will be provided digitally. Readings must be completed by the start of the seminar for which they are assigned.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Caroline Archambault,