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Researching Africa in the 21st Century


Admission requirements

Students of the MA African Studies. Others after consultations with the instructor.


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. In our curriculum we aim at some acquaintance with the following disciplines: History, Politics, Economics, Geography, Culture Studies, Linguistics and Anthropology.
Each discipline has its methods, so it is important for an Africanist to understand the various methods of the other disciplines and to be able to work with them. In this course we will introduce multi-modal research methods and 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. Epistemological questions: How is the multi/interdisciplinary field of African Studies influenced by digitalization? What are the epistemological puzzles?
2. Methodological choices: How to make them? And how do digital and non-digital data relate?
3. Mastering techniques; how to set up multimodal research and handle text, video, photo and audio in research? How do we do research on the net?
4. Presentation and archiving: How do we translate research findings into products that are transparent and attractive for wider audiences and future research? (this part will also be developed in the course language and communication in the MA programme)

The course is set up in a triple structure:
1. The first block Theory covers six weeks (with 6 lessons) and aims to discuss how to make methodological choices in a world that increasingly digitizes and virtualizes. It positions African Studies in relation to different epistemologies and questions how these are changed in the digital world. It will discuss a variety of qualitative (interview, observation) and quantitative methods (surveys, text analysis) in multimodal languages, and the ethical questions concerned. Throughout this part of the course the logic of the research strategy – i.e. the relation between research questions- data- fieldwork- methods- written and visualized texts – is emphasized. The students will read literature (next to exploring online sources and watching films), which should translate in a reflective paper on the literature and an oral presentation. Furthermore, aligning with the objective to present and archive the research process, students will be asked to carry out several methodological assignments and to write blog texts blog texts about this, in preparation for the assignment of block 2.
2. The second block ‘Practice’ covers 6 weeks (with 4 lessons) and aims to train students in skills needed to do a research project in multimodal form, and also make it accessible to a broad audience. The students will work in groups on a project executed in Den Haag. The skills focus amongst others on using the net as a research environment, doing observations and participations and interviewing and presenting the research. Students are trained in how to use digital tools (camera, audio, maps, and so on).
3. The third block ‘Publication’ covers a period of 1 month (with 3 lessons) and is aimed to guide the students in the process to translate their data into an end product; It will be a mix between exchange between the students about experiences, coaching of the lecturers, and the first steps towards making the end-product.

The exercises and the understandings gained in this course will be indispensable for the students to develop their own research proposal, and especially the methodological section of it, in the parallel twin course Africa in Practice, in which the students work on their internship and write a related research proposal.
Block 1 and 2 are scheduled for in the first Semester. Block 3 is scheduled in the second block of Semester 2, when the students have returned from the field, and start to work on their data. This requires that all students should return before the Month of April.
What do we ask of the students:
1. active participation in the course; preparation of each session in reading and watching; preparation of questions;
2. Assignments are given throughout the course; Students are expected to prepare these well;
3. Students are provided with a literature list that is partly compulsory and partly free reading; and USB stick with necessary documentation and other materials.

We will read parts of three books together: "Digital_Humanities" by Anne Burdick, et al. 2012: ; Pink, Sarah (ed) 2012. Adavances in Visual Methodology. London: SAGE (students buy this book); Marsha Berry, 2017, Creating with mobiles (online available)

Course objectives

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.


  1. Oral skills to clearly communicate the outcomes
  2. 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; practical skills

Course Load

Total course load 280 hours
Block 1:

  • Lectures: 6x3 = 18

  • Compulsory literature, online sources, film etc: 6x3x3= 54

  • assignments: 40
    *Lectures: 4 x 3= 12

  • preparation block 2, on-line research: 27

  • Data collection and research project: 60
    *Presentation of product: 13
    Block 3:
    *Lectures: 3x3=9
    *compulsory literature: 3x4=12
    *preparation timeline and presentation: 15
    *individual coaching: 5
    *feed-back on the fieldwork: 15

Assessment method

Block 1: 6 assignments: summary literature, 2 reflexive blog texts, interview; observation; survey; groups assignment: research question and problem; 40%
Block 2: Groups assignment: End product (on-line publication) plus individual reflection on the process and experiences 40%
Block 3: Process analysis of research resulting in a timeline 20%

To complete this course successfully, students will be assessed on their performance on the following aspects. The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
Reading and summary of literature; course objectives assessed: 1,2,3,
Presentation of use of skills in a practical research exercise. Course objectives assessed: 2, 3, 5, 8-10
Research project: Course objectives assessed: 1-8, 11-13.
For a pass the weighted averaged needs to be a sufficient mark. In case the weighted average is insufficient, the assignments 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

  • network

Reading list

A selection of articles, book chapters and films. The reading/watching list for the course will be put on Blackboard and in a shared Zotero-folder.


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