This course is an introduction to the contemporary politics of Africa, with the aim of sparking a life-long interest in the affairs of the region. Comprised of nearly 50 countries and home to over 1 billion people, sub-Saharan Africa is remarkable in its diversity, particularly in regards to a number of outcomes central to the study of political science: how do institutions of the past shape current dynamics of political competition and economic growth? Why are some countries stable democracies while others struggle with military coups or authoritarian rule? What sparks political violence and how can countries emerge from conflict? Our focus is both contemporary and comparative, organized thematically around common political experiences and attributes across the region. We begin with the legacies of colonialism, the slave trade, and the politics of liberation. We then interrogate dynamics central to political life in Africa over the 60 years since independence: the role of ethnic diversity in shaping competition, the prominence of patronage politics, and the evolution of elections. We next assess major dimensions that have historically shaped the study of African politics, including conflict and violence, economic development, and foreign aid. The final section takes a comparative approach to some of the most pressing issues in Africa today: health crises, migration and mobility, technological revolution, climate change, and the emerging power of women and youth.
Format: seminar; A typical class session will be about 40% lecture and 60% discussion
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Class Participation, Map Quiz, Country Case Study (12 - 15 pages, written incrementally throughout semester) and Presentation
all first-years and sophomores; those juniors and seniors majoring in political science or concentrating in Global Studies.
Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Over the course of the semester, students will produce a substantive political science research paper. We will break the writing assignment into component parts throughout the semester, focusing on structure, substance, style, and citations. We will revise drafts based on individual feedback, engage in collective writing exercises, as well as learn the elements of peer review.
This course takes the racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity of sub-Saharan Africa as a starting point for understanding the contemporary politics of the region. The course addresses the legacies of systemic inequality as well as strategies of resistance to oppression. We also examine how ethnic and religious diversity shape political institutions, competition, and conflict, comparing different countries and over time.
GBST African Studies Electives
PSCI Comparative Politics Courses