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The Politics of Africa: Development, Democracy, and Identity



This course focuses on the politics of Africa with specific attention to the three interrelated concepts of development, democracy, and cultural identity. It will discuss the main political trends characterizing Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1950s until today, including the decolonization processes of the 1950s and 60s, the early switch to authoritarian rule across the continent, economic stagnation and the debt crisis, and the third wave of democratization of the 1990s. Within this historical framework, students will engage with debates on the nature of African states, the causes of violent conflict, and the lingering effects of colonialism, focusing on key concepts such as neopatrimonialism and ethnicity. Most attention will lie on political developments since the 1990s and continued democratization struggles across the continent. Students will gain insights into the variation across Africa as some countries have become stable democracies while others remain subjected to instability and authoritarian rule. They will learn the major explanatory factors offered for these differences as well as how to critically assess them. Students will also gain insights into the key actors influencing socio-political developments in Africa, including political elites, political parties, social movements, NGOs, and international actors.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will acquire insight into the major developments in Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1950s until today.

  • They will gain a thorough knowledge of major concepts and approaches in African Politics and how to critically engage with them.

  • They will strengthen research skills including critical reading of academic texts, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and academic writing

Mode of Instruction

The seminar consists of lectures, group work and class discussions.

Study Material

Study material consists of lecture slides, journal articles, and book chapters made available on Brightspace. Students will also be required to (purchase and) read one African-focused novel from the literature list provided at the beginning of the course.

Assessment Method

  • 10% participation in classes and group discussion.

  • 30% short assignments (3* 500-800 words)

  • 40% final research paper (2500-4000 words)

  • 20% book review of 1 African-focused novel connecting the book to themes of the course (800-1000 words)

  • Students must submit and/or participate in all assignments to pass the course.


See 'MyTimetable'