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Level 5

5AAH3010 Themes in Colonial and Postcolonial African History

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutorDr Katharina Oke (Semester 1) & Dr Vincent Hiribarren (Semester 2)
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2 hour seminars (weekly)
AvailabilityPlease see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%), 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each) & 1 x oral presentation (10%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment by the following methods: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%); 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each); 1 x 1500 word essay (10%). 

N.B. This module cannot be taken in conjunction with 5AAH2015 or 5AAH3110 due to overlap of content.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

The aim of this module is to try and understand what is happening in a continent that seems permanently in crisis. Why was there such unspeakable violence in Liberia and Rwanda? Why are oil-exporting states like Nigeria or Angola still ranked so poorly in the UN Human Development Index? Are multi-party elections the cause of civil violence? Why is corruption apparently endemic? Is aid the answer? And why is witchcraft thriving today? Or is it simply that the press and media continue to give us a distorted image, still pandering to the late nineteenth-century vision of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?

Starting from an examination of these issues, the course will offer a fresh re-interpretation of contemporary Africa. It will provide the intellectual and conceptual framework best suited to the study of the continent since 1900. An important aspect of the course is its emphasis on analysing today’s problems in historical and comparative perspective. This means that we will place Africa within the continuum of its own history, going back to the pre-colonial period and that we will examine the impact of colonial rule across the continent by identifying what was common, rather than distinct, in how the Europeans colonised the continent. We will also compare Africa with other formerly colonised parts of the world.

Some of the key issues we will study are: the legacy of colonial rule; the nature of the colonial and post-colonial state; the history of violence; the colonial and post-colonial economy in the context of the world market; the exercise of power in independent Africa; the rise and demise of the one-party state; democratisation; famine and hunger; illness (particularly HIV/Aids); what ‘modernisation’ and ‘re-traditionalisation’ mean in the present context; the aid and development conundrum; violence and state failure; the merits of regional integration and the role of the African Union; the possible meanings of an African ‘renaissance’ and the prospects for an end to poverty.

Provisional teaching plan

Semester 1

1. Introduction
2. West Africa in the Nineteenth Century
3. Partition of Africa
4. The Experience of Colonial Power
5. The Colonial Economy
6. Colonial Education
7. Political Independence
8. Violent Decolonisation
9. Taming Borders and Territories
10. Ethnicity and the Invention of Tradition 

Semester 2

11. Witchcraft and the Occult
12. Religion
13. Corruption and Neopatrimonialism
14. Dependence and Extraversion
15. Civil Wars, Coups and Violence
16. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid
17. Democratisation
18. Aid and Development
19. Gender
20. Environment

Suggested Introductory Reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

Iliffe, John, Africans: The History of a Continent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Mudimbe, VY, The Idea of Africa (Bloomington; London: Indiana University Press; J. Currey, 1994)

Nugent, Paul, Africa since Independence (New York: Palgrave Mcmillan, 2012)

Parker, John, and Richard Rathbone, African History a Very Short Introduction (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Reid, Richard, A History of Modern Africa (Chichester: Wiley-Backwell, 2009)

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