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Researching Africa in the 21st Century


Admission requirements

This is a compulsory course in the MA African Studies and only open to students that have been admitted in this programme.


In the second semester the students will spend 12 weeks in an African country for an internship and research project based on which they will write their final thesis. This course will address prepare students for the research aspect of their stay in Africa and will focus on the multiple aspects of the development and implementation of a good research project within the multidisciplinary field of African Studies.

African studies is a multi- and inter-disciplinary field of knowledge production. This means that students have to learn different languages of doing research that are accompanied by different methods and methodologies. In this course we will discuss these languages and especially see how we apply them to understand a problem, or an object of study.
Each language has its method, so it is important for an Africanist to understand the methods of the other disciplines and to be able to work with them. In this course we will introduce mixed methods.
The research environment has changed with the advancement of the digital. Not only in terms of accessing data, but also in terms of techniques to do research. The tools to do research have expanded with easy audio, photo and video; computer, i-pads etc. make text also a different experience than a pen and paper. The field has expanded to digital archives, big data, social media, etc.

In this course therefore we will give attention to:
1. What is multi- and inter-disciplinarity and how is this worked out in practice; What are the epistemological puzzles?
2. What is mixed methods, which techniques go with it? How does method go with types of data? How do digital and non-digital data relate?
3. Mastering techniques; how to handle text, video, photo and audio in research? How do we do research on the net? What are big data?
4. How do we translate data to text, and which languages can we use? We will introduce text language and visual languages. (this part will also be developed in the course language and communication in the MA programme)
5. Research ethics

During the course the students will do some (small) practical excercises, read and discuss literature and write their research proposal.

The course will also be linked to a practice in dissemination research results, i.e. organization of public debates based on academic research.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the student has obtained:

Knowledge and understanding

  1. Multidisciplinary knowledge of and insight into societies and cultures of Africa at an advanced level.
  2. A thorough understanding of the societal relevance of the study subject.
  3. General knowledge of and insight into current issues within the overall field and main disciplines of African Studies

Applying knowledge and understanding

  1. The ability to apply knowledge, insights, concepts and research methods relevant in African Studies in independent research
  2. The technical and cognitive skills to collect, select, analyse and critically evaluate data and academic literature to formulate an answer to research questions
  3. The ability to develop a coherent and feasible research proposal.

Ability to formulate judgements

  1. Take into account social and cultural, academic and ethical aspects relevant to the analysis of complex questions and the formulation of judgements.
  2. Reflect on methodological, historical and ethical-social aspects of African Studies.
  3. Oral skills to clearly communicate the outcomes
  4. Written and visual skills to clearly communicate the outcomes

Learning Skills

  1. Has the learning skills to continue further study at a professional level / start a PhD
  2. Is able and aware of the necessity to keep abreast of relevant developments in the academic and practitioners field.
  3. Is able to assess where his/her own research/work can contribute to academic or practioners’ fields;


The timetable is available on the website of the MA African Studies
ResMA African Studies

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

  1. lectures:
  2. Practical work on non-digital and digital techniques to gather data
  3. Practical work on visual /audio data
  4. Practical work on dissemination of research
  5. Research Proposal writing in which mixed methods, data gathering in relation to the questions are central; and in which there will be special attention for dissemination and ethical questions;

Total course load 10EC x 28 hours=280 hours

  • Lectures: 13x3 = 39

  • Practical work (includes practical skill assignment): 5 x 4 = 20

  • Study of compulsory literature and watching film: 10x3x3 = 90

  • preparation of presentation about literature: 5

  • Extra contact hours: 5 h (to work on assignments)

  • Proposal writing: 121 ( in relation to course, including extra reading)

Assessment method

Reading and summary of literature (20 %): course objectives assessed: 1,2,3,

Presentation of use of skills in a practical research exercise (30%). Course objectives assessed: 2, 3, 5, 8-10

Research Proposal (50%): Course objectives assessed: 1-8, 11-13.

For a pass the weighted averaged needs to be a sufficient mark, with the added requirement that the research proposal should receive a minimum of 5.5. In case the weighted average is insufficient, or the research proposal is insufficient, the proposal can be rewritten after receiving oral and written feedback from the lecturer.

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.


We will use blackboard to exchange the assessments, to communicate, to make a platform

Blackboard will be used for:

  • communication

  • exchange of assessments

  • Submission of written work

Reading list

A selection of articles. The reading list for the course will be put on blackboard three weeks before the course starts


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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof. M.E. de Bruijn

Onderwijsadministratie:van Wijkplaats

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