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Thematic Fields: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations


Admission requirements

Compulsory for students enrolled in the RESMA African Studies programme. Those from other MA programs may be admitted with prior registration (please contact the course coordinator).


In this stage of the programme the students have started to reflect on the theoretical orientation and empirical set-up of their own field research. In order to facilitate their choices, but also to ‘discover’ what theory is and how this links to empirical research, the students will be introduced to the conceptual/ theoretical considerations and choices and concrete research of various senior Africanist researchers. How did they relate to theory while developing their research? What were the guiding theories and concepts for them? And how did they work for them during the process of data gathering and analysis?
The course is organized around three thematic fields that are relevant for the study of Africa and allow for a multi-disciplinary approach, i.e., Markets; Power; and Travelling Texts. For each of these themes, the corpus of theories will be explored and linked to empirical researches accordingly. Practical assignments, including a field excursion, will help students to understand, evaluate, analyse and apply these theories to their own research questions.

Course objectives

After completion of the course, students will have acquired:

  • A profound knowledge and understanding of various theories and concepts in relevant thematic fields in African Studies and how these guide empirical research;

  • Decided on the topic of their research project and have selected, studied and analyzed the most important literature on the subject.

After completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Critically apply these theoretical insights and concepts in the development of their independent research project in African Studies;

  • Start writing a full research proposal under expert supervision;

  • Engage in academic debate related to the selected thematic fields;

  • Give persuasive oral presentations.


ResMA African Studies

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture/seminar

  • Field excursion

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures/seminars: 6 weeks x 8 hours = 48 hours

  • Preparation tutorials: 6 weeks x 2 hours = 12 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • Assignment(s): 3 x 40 hours = 120 hours

Assessment method


  • 3 papers (3 x 25% = 75%)

  • Oral presentation (3 x 5 % = 15%)

  • Participation (10%)


Resit will be done in consultation with the course coordinator.

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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Information on course content

  • Submission of written work

Reading list

A syllabus with a reading list will be made available on Blackboard prior to the course.


Enrolment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply


Course coordinator: Dr. C.T.Nijenhuis

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

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