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The field of African Studies and Interdisciplinarity Part 2. Processes of Africanist research


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)


African studies is an interdisciplinary field. It combines disciplines from the social sciences, humanities and to a lesser extent the natural sciences. In this course of 15 ECTs the students will be introduced to the practice of interdisciplinary research, often collaborative work. The students will get acquainted with different research methods, that are often combined in interdisciplinary research (mixed methods) and in the last block the students will be introduced into the operationalization of research, where a research problematic will be linked to methodologies and techniques; how do we operationalize a research question into practical research? The course has three major parts.

Part I:
In the first two weeks of this course the students will be familiarized with the various interdisciplinary approaches that have formed African Studies in the 20iest century. Two historical examples of research programmes in Africa and three examples from the past two decades will introduce the students not only to interdisciplinary fields but also to their methodologies. It will become clear that a study in this field often uses various methods. Interdisciplinarity goes with mixed methods. The examples combine quantitative and qualitative methods or they combine historical methods and ethnography. As such, they help to demonstrate that research is guided by the type of data collected which in turn shapes the analysis to a certain extent.
At the end of the fist five lectures the students present an interdisciplinary research plan/programme, that they have prepared based on the reading of literature that are the outcomes of an existing interdisciplinary research programme (this is an assignment made in groups of 4-5 students).

Part II:
This comprises three weeks during which students are introduced to various techniques of research methods. The presentations from research of the lecturers are combined with practical exercises and assignments.

Part III:
The third block of three lectures and three assignment presentations deals with the operationalization of research problematic and questions. How to translate data into knowledge? What can be learnt from the various types of data gathered with the variable techniques that are part of the mixed methods in relation to research questions?

Course objectives

Students will learn how to situate research groups, research agenda’s and methodological choices in their historical and social contexts.
Students will have to learn (a) in what way epistemology differs from, but relates to “methods and techniques”; (b) how they can think about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research (validity vs. representatively); © specific relevance of these methodological issues for research in Africa.


Schedule: Mondays: 13.00 – 16.30 ; Thursdays: 11.00 – 15.00

Mode of instruction

The course consists of four weekly blocks. A block contains a (double) lecture on the Monday (10.00- 17.00) after which precise assignments are handed out. Students present their assignment papers in class in workshop meetings on Thursdays and in the case of Block 1 at the end of the module.

Assessment method

The three parts of the course are examined by the assignments. Part I has one assignment, i.e. the reconstruction of an interdisciplinary research programme. Students work in a group of three or four on the development of a research proposal for an interdisciplinary research, to be presented at the end of part 1. On the basis of literature of a finalized research project the students reconstruct the proposal with which the research started (~three pages). Next to this assignment, other weekly assignments are given in part II and III 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