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The Theoretical Foundations and Interdisciplinary Nature of African Studies


Admission requirements

See RESMA admission requirements.
For this course admission is in compliance with the overall RESMA requirements.


The course contrasts the intellectual homogenization of Africa created by colonialism and post-colonial politics with the great diversity of the continent. The course addresses the epistemology of African Studies and its multi-disciplinary nature (construction of knowledge on / in Africa) in a series of related issues that all researchers in Africa need to know:

  • The different ideas about what ‘African Studies’ are or should be

  • the imagery of ´Africa´ in different disciplines, and the manner in which various disciplines have been developing a study of Africa;

  • the longue durée of economic processes of and on the African continent;

  • the importance of historical contextualization in African Studies;

  • the history and persistence of religion in Africa;

  • local forms of knowledge in Africa and the role of innovations and the idea of ‘modernity’ and ‘development’;

  • identity and political formations in Africa.

Teaching materials include specialist & academic publications, internet-sources and power-point presentations.

Course objectives

A. General Learning Objectives:

The student will have:

  1. A profound awareness of the current issues, core concepts and research questions in a number of relevant disciplines and regional fields of African Studies;
  2. A thorough understanding of various theories and methodological approaches and techniques that are commonly used in African Studies as well as in different related disciplines;
  3. Sensitivity to the relationship between theory, method and place;
  4. A thorough knowledge of and insight into the interdisciplinary position of the study subject;
  5. A thorough understanding of the societal relevance of the study subject.
  6. The ability to select, compile, compare and analyze African studies-related literature and sources independently, with the aid of traditional and modern techniques;
  7. The ability to independently study African Studies-related literature and sources and to assess these as to their quality and reliability;

B. Learning skills pertaining to the course:

  1. The student will obtain proven knowledge of multidisciplinary insight into the societies and cultures of Africa
  2. The student will have the ability to communicate, both in oral and written form, the outcomes based on the students own academic research, knowledge, motifs, and considerations to an academic audience of fellow-students.
  3. 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
  4. The student will obtain insights into the various ways Africa was and is looked at throughout time and thus will be aware and familiar with the nature, debates and controversies in African Studies.
  5. The student will obtain a deepened understanding of Africa providing a forum in which the development of his/her research interests can be furthered.

C. Specific learning skills pertaining to the RESMA profile;

For RESMA-students; the student will obtain the ability to relate his/her studies and insights to the domain of critical reflexivity on the epistemological nature of African Studies in general.


African Studies African Studies research

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Reading of literature

  • Writing of assignments

  • Presentations

  • Performance of tasks in class

Course Load

10 ECTS = 280 hours
Lecture attendance: 40 hrs.
Study of literature: 100 hrs.
In-class assignments and presentations: 40 hrs.
Out-of-class assignments: 4 written assignments: 100 hrs.

Assessment method

Assessment method as relating to B (skills pertaining to the course) and C (skills specifically pertaining to MA & RESMA profiles);

  • Oral presentations; non-measured learning objectives; B2, B 3, B 4

  • Reporting; non-measured learning objectives; B 1, B 2, B 4

  • Assignment 1; measured learning objectives; B 1 – 5, C 2

  • Assignment 2; non-measured learning objectives; B 1, B 2, B 4, C 2

  • Assignment 3; measured learning objectives; B 2, B 5

  • Assignment 4; measured learning objectives; B 2, B 5


For grading ONLY the measured learning objectives will be taken into account;

  • Assignment 1: 20%

  • Assignment 3: 40%

  • Assignment 4: 40%

For overall fulfilment of course requirements;

  • All out-of-class-assignments (including Assignment 2 which will not be graded) must have received a ‘pass’

  • All lecture-reports (in-class assignment TASK 4) must have received a ‘pass’

Exam review

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


Students registered for the course will be enrolled. Course information, teaching material, assignment papers and feedback are exchanged via Blackboard.

Reading list

The literature is made available through a folder located at the ASCL library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


R.A. van Dijk

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats

Coordinator of Studies: P.C. Lai LL.M. MSc