nl en

Regional Specialization: West Africa


Admission requirements

Free and compulsory for students enrolled in the RESMAAS program. Those from other MA programs may be admitted with prior registration (contact coordinator)


West Africa, from Senegal to Chad and from the Sahara to the River Congo, is in many aspects a unique region. For the uninformed outsider West Africa’s culture stands out clearly in cultural expression through cloths, music, cultural heritage, compared to East and Southern Africa. Historically the Mali empire, Ghana, Songhay, diverse Fulbe empires, Oyo, Asante and Dahomey have formed and unified certain parts of West Africa, demarcating various cultural areas (Mande, Fulani, Diula, etc), and developing, or straddling, the division between the more Islamic parts of West Africa and the Christian/animistic southern parts. These frontiers are at the same time arbitrary as migration and mobility is an essential element of West African cultures. Furthermore West Africa is marked by a typical ecology of gradual transition from humid to (semi)-arid, which in turn defines to a certain extent the livelihood systems of these areas. Mobility for many reasons, i.e. trade, spread of religion, displacement, has shaped the West African society and geography. Colonization of the typical West African “trade-economy” type had a heavy impact on social formations and formed the prelude to today’s political situation, though not exclusively. Also the consequences of pre-colonial history are still present today. A comparison between Anglophone (British colonized) and francophone (French colonized) countries gives a unique perspective on the influence of colonial politics on these countries. Each country in West Africa formed after the colonial period has its own typical features, and one could situate them on a continuum from Arabized to African, from Anglophone to Francophone, from dry Sahel to dense forest countries.

Course objectives

The course provides basic knowledge about the region in terms topics, historical processes, current events, canonical studies and recent trends in research agenda’s.


Schedule: Mondays 15.00-17.00

Mode of instruction

The course consists of six lectures. The lectures deal with central themes in the study of this region. The lectures provide students with basic knowledge and give an overview of canonical studies and topics.
Students will read 100 pp. per week

Assessment method

Evaluation of paper submitted at the end of the course


Available for registered students.

Reading list

Provided on the first meeting of class and posted on Blackboard


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. Azeb Amha
Academic Coordinator
P O Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, NL
Tel. +31-71-527-3364