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Culture: Africa


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies.

Limited places are also open for exchange students. Please note: this course takes place in The Hague.


When studying a particular region of the world, knowledge of its cultural universe is crucial; the study of culture allows the understanding of the deeper structures behind history, politics and economy. Culture is the symbolic repertoire that gives form and content to national and collective identities, the subjectivity of individuals, and the environment. Culture is expressed in both material and immaterial resources, through which relations of legitimacy and domination are built in specific temporal and geographical contexts. Culture is a domain in which strategies for winning consent and cohesion are reflected, but it also includes mechanisms of in- and exclusion or conflicts on the basis of e.g. nationality, language, religion, ethnicity or gender. This course looks at these processes in specific cultural contexts of the world, and revises the regional scholarly traditions in the study and circulation of culture.
The course is designed to introduce students to the complex field of cultural communication in Africa by focusing on the role of linguistic and non-linguistic communicative practices and of artistic communication as expression of cultural identities.
In the first part (F. Ameka) we will examine various modes of communication in African communities of practice and seek to understand the cultural values that are at play in these social actions and how communicative strategies serve to create and define identities and statuses in African cultures.
In the second part (D. Merolla), we will discuss African Literatures in the context of local and global changes, the (problematic) concepts of oral literature and written literature (with examples of social imagination in myths and epics) and we will examine the impact of technology and globalization on the persistence of orality and local cultural patterns.
In the third block (K. Robbe) we will focus on the artistic and everyday cultural practices in their connection to the histories of political and socio-economic transformation. In particular, we will look at the changing cultural styles and city life, at the representations of political transition and post-confllict reconciliation in film, and at the involvement of art and literature in articulating the experiences of life in the time of HIV/AIDS.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • be able to explain main concepts in African studies regarding communication in a variety of forms (oral, written) and contexts (rural and urban, locally based and diasporic);

  • develop familiarity with debates around the conceptions of elite and popular cultures in Africa, and the ways in which media are involved in transforming ‘local’ and ‘global’ practices;

  • acquire insights into the politics of memory and identity in African countries going through the processes of socio-political transformation;

  • be able to apply these insights in analyzing examples of contemporary African culture, including language, oral and written literature, visual art, styles, monuments and urban culture.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture course with tutorials.

Attending lectures and tutorials is compulsory. If you are not able to attend a lecture or tutorial, please inform the tutor of the course. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the final exam or essay.

Course Load

Total course load for the course is 5 EC x 28 hours is 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 32 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 60 hours

  • Assessments: 48 hours

Assessment method

Tutorials 30%
Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 40%

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the full 70% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades. No resit for the tutorials is possible.

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

Syllabus including readinglist will be made available on blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. F.K. Ameka, email
Dr. D. Merolla, email
Dr. K. Robbe, email