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Language and Communication in Africa


Admission requirements

This course is a compulsory element of the MA African Studies.

Please note that there is a limited number of spots available for this course. Students of the MA and ResMA African Studies have priority over all others.


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 interested in teaching the theories in which we combine the different fields, and in a practical component: to introduce the students in the languages 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 presenting 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.

Course objectives

Knowledge and understanding

  1. Multidisciplinary knowledge of and insight into societies and cultures of Africa at an advanced level.
  2. A thorough understanding of the societal relevance of the study subject.
  3. General knowledge of and insight into current issues within the overall field and main disciplines of African
  4. Advanced knowledge of at least two of the following disciplines in relation to African Studies: Linguistics, Culture Studies, Anthropology

Applying Knowledge and Understanding

  1. The ability to apply knowledge, insights, concepts and research methods relevant in African Studies in independent research
  2. The ability to apply knowledge, insights, concepts and research methods relevant in African Studies in other professional settings
  3. The ability to work with a complex body of sources of diverse nature and to report on this analysis in oral form
  4. The ability to work with a complex body of sources of diverse nature and to report on this analysis in written form

Ability to formulate judgements

  1. Formulate judgements in the field of African Studies
  2. Take into account social and cultural, academic and ethical aspects relevant to the analysis of complex questions and
  3. Reflect on methodological, historical and ethical-social aspects of African Studies.


  1. Oral skills to clearly communicate the outcomes
  2. Written skills to clearly communicate the outcomes

Learning skills

  1. Is able and aware of the necessity to keep abreast of relevant developments in the academic and practitioners field.
  2. Is able to assess where his/her own research/work can contribute to academic or practioners’ fields


The timetable is available on the website of the MA African Studies
ResMA African Studies

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Research

  • Practical training in skills to publish in the digital age

Course Load

Total course load 5 x 28 hours= 140 hours
lectures/seminars 14 uur (7x2);
literature 50 uur (= 350 pages);
paper: 76 hours

Assessment method

Students have to present and summarise the literature and they have to work on a presentation using modern media that shows the application of interdisciplinarity and affinity with the topic.
Presentations on literature: 15%. Course objectives assessed: 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 13
Preparation & summaries: 15% Course objectives assessed: 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12, 13
Publication in any form: 70%. Course objectives assessed: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14

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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • assessment of practical excercises

  • exchange between students about the research excercise that they will develop around a problem

  • communication with the students

  • uploading content for the course

Reading list

A selection of articles.


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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Prof. Dr. M.E. de Bruijn Prof. Dr. M.P.G.M. Mous

Onderwijsadministratie:van Wijkplaats

Coordinator of Studies: P.C. Lai LL.M. MSc