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Negotiating Power in Africa


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization of the course have the right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


In this seminar, we will study mid and late 20th century African history through the lens of power and some of these countries were decolonised and how crisis in these countries have a bearing in the ways in which they were colonised. We will focus particularly on how power is being received, consumed, negotiated and reproduced by people subject to power structures in Africa.
These power structures include international relations and Africa’s position in the international sphere, in terms of geo-politics, in international trade, and as an emerging continent, and national and local dynamics of socio-political and economic negotiation of power. But it also concerns more fundamental questions of knowledge production in which we as academic researchers are implicated. Subjected to such power structures leads to dynamic responses such as struggles for political change, the search for political space, dictatorial regimes, religious movements, labour movements, social uprisings.
How people act and react towards disctarial regimes depends on many variables such as age, wealth, origin in urban or rural areas and religion. The spaces where such political agency is performed go beyond the classical political field and include as well social media, art and music, and informal political action. In most case the youths are at the forefront of the struggle for change via very unconventional methods like music, social media just to name a few.
Through a series of case studies, (Cameroon and Congo) we will study how African societies have developed through processes of social and political contest, and how people’s understandings of power shapes political action in Africa.
In response to questions about knowledge production, the students will be challenged to develop their own case study and produce academic knowledge, based on thorough academic research, in an alternative output style, such as a film, podcast, or web publication.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:
1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
10. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:
11. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
-in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940);
12. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subtrack in question, with a particular focus on the following:
-in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: empirical research from a comparative and connective perspective;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:
13. Will acquire in-depth knowledge and understanding of how African societies have developed through processes of social and political contest, and how people’s understandings of power shapes political action in Africa;
14. Will be equiped with the ability to critically reflect on interface of power and agency in Africa, and how agencies are performed in multiple cultural domains;
15. Will acquire the tools to produce academic knowledge in alternative formats, such as film, radio programme or web publication.;
16. (ResMA only): The ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources;
17. The abiliy to identify new approaches within existing academic debates;
18. Knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialization.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend must notify the lecturer beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7, 13-15, 17-18 (ResMA also: 16)

  • Assignment 1: Research project and Dissemination plan
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15, 17-18 (ResMA also: 10 and 16)

  • Assignment 2: Final research project (written paper of 6500-7500 words, based on research in primary sources, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography), or in alternative format (visual, web publication)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 11-15, 17-18 (ResMA also: 10 and 16)

  • Assignment 3: Particfipation in class
    Measured learning objectives: 7-9 (ResMA also: 10)

Weighing Final assignment

  • Oral presentation (pass/fail): 50%

  • Active participation in class: 10%

  • Research project and Dissemination plan: 40%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the final assignment must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading list

Readings will follow and be announced on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Not applicable.