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Coming of Age in Africa: Gender, Generation, and Development




Admissions requirements

Introduction to Comparative Politics or permission from the instructor.


This course explores contemporary development in sub-Saharan Africa through an anthropological life course perspective that puts the everyday lives of men and women, young and old, at the center of our investigations. A gendered life course approach, within a distinctively anthropological orientation, emphasizes the importance of time, context, process, and meaning to human experience and to human development. Each week will be devoted to a different stage in the ageing process: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood, and elderhood. Students will combine the study of common human development metrics with ethnographic investigations into topics as diverse as birth and belonging, child nurturing, child labor, education, love and sexuality, rites of passage, marriage, work, motherhood and fatherhood, retirement, and widowhood. Through individual case study research, students will be given the opportunity to explore topics and settings of their own choosing. This course aims to provide students with an introduction to sub-Saharan Africa, African development, and demographic anthropology. It is designed to stimulate students to identify, understand, and reflect on African development challenges and opportunities at the nexus of individual lives, situated structural contexts, and rapid social change.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Be able to discuss some core metrics used to measure human development over the life course and be comfortable identifying and extracting figures from commonly used international databases;

  • Have developed an understanding of what the trends are in such metrics, specific to sub-Saharan Africa;

  • Be familiar with selected conceptual, theoretical, and methodological skills used in the social sciences to analyze development through a gendered life course approach;

  • Be able to apply these skills to reflect critically on how these trends relate to the diversity of everyday lives and experiences of males and females, young and old, across the continent;

  • Be able to critically reflect, present, and debate on various African development issues;

  • Be able to synthesize course materials with cumulative case study research to produce a final research essay


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught in two-hour interactive seminar sessions twice a week. Seminar sessions will include an introductory lecture, discussions of assigned readings, and student led debate presentations.


Class Participation: 15%
Class Presentations: 15%
Two Reflection Essays: 40% (tbc, but probably Week 4 + 7)
Research Essay: 30% (week 8)

Class Participation:
Students will have ample opportunity to participate actively in class seminars. For example, students will be expected to contribute to class discussions and debates, to share opinions on readings, and to raise questions around lectures or student presentations.

Reflection Essays:
Students will submit 2 essays of no more than 2000 words each. The essays will require students to reflect on class readings and class discussions, and to incorporate extra readings from their case study research.

Class Presentation:
Students will be required to present case study findings on a development topic of choice. They will be responsible for leading a discussion and stimulating debate on their topic.

Research Essay:
A cumulative research essay will require students to synthesize course materials with case study research.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The readings for each seminar meeting will be provided digitally. Readings must be completed by the start of the seminar for which they are assigned. Students are required to bring the assigned readings to class.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact