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The Lusophone South Atlantic


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

One or more of the following courses:

  • Birth of the Modern World

  • Introduction to Globalization and Transnational Politics

  • Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies

Recommended course(s):

  • Power in World Politics,

  • Nations and Nationalism.


The oceans of the world separate, but also connect people. The Atlantic Ocean has for long served as a space of connection between societies in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe. These links are at the heart of Transatlantic Studies, a field that still mainly focuses on the relations between Europe and North America. This course takes the field south, by focusing on the transatlantic routes travelled and communities formed by those who came to adopt Portuguese as their language; whether in Brazil, Angola, elsewhere in Africa, or in Portugal itself.

Already in the 15th century Europeans began crossing the Atlantic, spearheading flows of people, animals, weapons, crops, commodities, diseases, and ideas; yielding what Trouillot (2002) calls the first moment of globality. Along with Spain, Portugal was a driving force of that moment with Portuguese sailors, merchants, soldiers, missionaries, and settlers engaging in conquest, conversion attempts, and trade in the so-called New World. The triangular trade routes that were formed between Europe, Africa and the Americas, while benefitting the Iberian actors significantly, spurred resistance and revolts among slaves and indigenous peoples but also adaptations, bargaining processes, and cultural exchanges on both sides of the South Atlantic. Later decolonisation processes were also shaped by such transregional links, as are current movements of people, capital and ideas between Brazil and the African states where Portuguese remains widely spoken today. The asymmetries of power that resulted from centuries of European domination have also partly shifted, with Brazil and Angola having risen as significant powers in their regions, attracting significant overseas investment.

In this course we will study these intersecting processes, retaining the ocean as our focal point — as a source of opportunity, imagination, and risk, and as a material and symbolic reality that shapes its adjacent communities. Today, the prospect of rising sea levels calls for renewed attention to how we relate to the Atlantic. At the same time, digital technologies allow for ever new ways of bridging physical divides. Exploring transatlantic forms of politics viewed from the South, this course will point to how communities are made through networks, facilitated by seaborne links and shared languages, and sustained by human propensities to connect across distance.

Course Objectives

By taking this course and engaging with its content, students should be able:

  1. To gain knowledge, as manifested in the ability:
  • To account for how politics is shaped by proximity to the ocean and by maritime activities that connect people across the seas,

  • To grasp how long-distance, cross-oceanic movements come to shape people’s identities and political views,

  • To analyse how the transatlantic slave trade, other commerce, and colonial and postcolonial dynamics have shaped power relations across the South Atlantic over time,

  • To identify and critically discuss dominant narratives of history, and to compare and contrast different narratives about similar historical processes,

  • To explain how long-distance movements of people within the Global South and between the Global South and North have shaped politics in Europe, Africa and South America;

  1. To gain certain skills, as manifested in the ability:
  • To work well in a team,

  • To make a video jointly with peers,

  • To better understand and communicate with people whose experiences, backgrounds, and identities may differ from your own,

  • To express your points well in academic writing,

  • To analyse connectivity and movements through time, and their implications for politics.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught interactively. Students are expected to come to class prepared by having read the assigned texts, and to participate actively by sharing your questions and remarks.
In an assignment running through the course, you will work together in groups to trace the trajectories of people who now live in e.g., Brazil, Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and Portugal; exploring how transatlantic journeys by their ancestors have shaped the ways in which they identify today, and how this has impacted their political views and behaviour. You will present what you found in class, and in a video. Students will further be expected to write reflections on the readings on a weekly basis. In a final essay, you will have the chance to analyse in more depth one topic related to the Lusophone South Atlantic.

Assessment Method

  • Group project on tracing trajectories: video 20%, presentation in class 10%,

  • Weekly reflections: 35%,

  • Essay: 35%.

Reading list

The reading list will be available upon commencement of the course. Meanwhile, students who would like to take the course are welcome to look into the following texts:

Enjuto-Rangel, Cecilia, Sebastiaan Faber, Pedro García-Caro, and Robert Patrick Newcomb, eds. 2019. Transatlantic Studies: Latin America, Iberia, and Africa. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 2002. "North Atlantic Universals: Analytical Fictions, 1492-1945." The South Atlantic Quarterly 101 (4):839-858.


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 Ingrid Samset, email: