Graduate Courses

Past and current courses in African Studies and related fields at the graduate level. 

LANGUAGES

CIC CourseShare Language offerings. As of Autumn 2015, the University of Chicago is strengthing its language offerings by being an active member of the CIC CourseShare initiative. These courses combine in-person and remote students via Skype. Course offerings include Zulu, Wolof, Yoruba, Bamana, Mandinka, and Malagasy.

LING 28355. Linguistic Introduction to Swahili I (Mpiranya). Spoken in ten countries of Eastern and Central Africa, Swahili has more speakers than any other language in the Bantu family, a group of more than 400 languages most prevalent in sub-equatorial Africa. Based on Swahili Grammar and Workbook, this course helps the students master key areas of the Swahili language in a fast yet enjoyable pace. Topics include sound and intonation patterns, noun class agreements, verb moods, and sentence structures. Additionally, this course provides important listening and expressive reading skills. For advanced students, historical interpretations are offered for exceptional patterns observed in Swahili, in relation with other Bantu languages. This is a general introduction course with no specific prerequisites.

LING 28370. African Languages (Mpiranya). One third of world languages are spoken in Africa, making it an interesting site for studying linguistic diversity and language evolution. This course presents the classification of different African language families and explains their historical development and interactions. It also presents the most characteristic features of African languages, focusing on those that are common in Africa but uncommon among other world languages. Additionally, the course addresses the issue of language dynamics in relation to socioeconomic development in Africa. Using living audio and written material, students will familiarize themselves with at least one major language selected from the Niger-Congo family, the most prevalent family in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a general introduction course with no specific prerequisites.

Arabic, including Elementary, Intermediate, High Indermediate Modern, High Intermediate Classical, Advanced, and regional colloquial. This sequence concentrates on the acquisition and mastery of speaking, reading, and aural skills in a variety of types of Arabic.

 

OTHER COURSES

HIST 30005. Colonial African History (Osborn). In the late nineteenth century, European powers embarked on an ambitious effort to conquer and occupy the African continent. This course considers the conditions that enabled the European “scramble for Africa” and the long-lasting consequences of that project. Primary sources, secondary texts, and fiction will present students with various perspectives on the experiences and effects of colonialism. Case studies will be drawn from French West Africa, Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya.

HIST 30010. African Women in Chicago. Since the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act altered previous restrictions on immigration to the United States, African immigration has increased fourfold, constituting what scholars refer to as "the new African immigration." By 2000, Chicagoland's African population constituted 21,828 in the city and 35,000 in Cook County. Initially, the vast majority of immigrants were men, but by the 1980s, nearly fifty percent of African immigrants were women, However, there has been relatively no research and we know little about the experiences of African women immigrants. This colloquium explores the question "how does gender matter in a transnational context?" by analyzing African women and their varied modes of immigration and documenting the experiences of African women who migrated to Chicagoland over the course of the twentieth century. We will explore this question not only through intensive course readings and discussions, but also through fieldwork and collecting oral histories that document African women's life histories. This course will work partnership with the United Africa Organization that has launched the Africans in Chicago Oral History Project. The final class assignment will be an original research paper on the themes of gender, immigration, and human rights based on the oral histories collected.

HIST 30101. Colonial Autobiography (Austen). The focus of this course will be the reading of works which deal, in one way of another, with "coming of age under colonialism" in Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.  Some are autobiographies in the normal sense, other are works of fiction, and many fall in between.  Most are colonial but some are literally postcolonial. The focus will be upon themes of developing a personal identity in negotiation between a local culture and a dominant colonial one, with formal schooling as a major common site.  There are obviously major issues of "postcoloniality" as stake her, in a mixture of political and cultural terms which we ourselves will need to negotiate.  The two weekly session will normally(but not always) be divided between a lecture, which will introduce the historical context and author, and a discussion of the assigned text.  Additional texts will be suggest both for background reading and potential paper topics.

ANTH 32220. Love, Capital and Conjugality: Comparative Perspectives from Africa and India (Cole and Majmdar). Are love and money necessarily opposed? Is arranged marriage primitive? Many would argue yes. It is widely accepted that in modern societies romantic love, the couple and the nuclear family are the ‘correct’ ways to organize intimate life. But, like many other normative ideas, these too were the product of particular historical developments in post-enlightenment Europe. A look at societies in other parts of the world demonstrates all too often that modernity in the realm of love, intimacy and family had a different trajectory from the European one. To characterize marriage, love, and familial relationships as backward or retrograde on grounds of their difference with (normative) models prevalent in the west results in a fundamental misunderstanding of the variety of different ways that societies have forged intimate relations. This course surveys ideas and practices surrounding love, marriage, and capital in the modern world with aparticular focus on comparison between Africa and India. The first half of the class concentrates on key theoretical texts that lay the foundation for the study of gender, intimacy and modern life. The latter part of the class examines case studies from Africa and India. Using a range of readings the course will explore such questions as the emergence of companionate marriage in Europe; arranged marriage, dowry, love and money

ARTH 32311. Exhibiting African Art (Fromont). This course explores the display of African art in Western contexts from the Renaissance to now. Texts, discussions, and student research will analyze the production and uses of art in Africa, and investigate how African art has been collected, preserved, and exhibited in Europe and the Americas since the fifteenth century. Topics include the early modern trade in Afro-Portuguese ivories, the scientific and artistic project of the cabinets of curiosities, the birth of ethnology and the advent of the museum, art, commerce and colonialism, primitivism, and 20th and 21st century politics of collecting, museums, and exhibits.

ARTH 35011. Africa, America (Fromont). This seminar explores the dynamic exchanges in the expressive cultures of Africa and the Americas. It examines a range of visual and material traditions that emerged and grew from the sustained contact between the two continents from the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade to now. Class discussion, readings, assignments and museum visits address topics such as carnival performances, santería and candomblé traditions, Vodou ritual forms, Luso-African architecture on both continents, and contemporary art.

HIST 35701. North Africa: Late Antiquity - Islam (Kaegi). Examination of topics in continuity and change from the third through ninth centuries CE, including changes in Roman, Vandalic, Byzantine, and early Islamic Africa. Topics include the waning of paganism and the respective spread and waning of Christianity, the dynamics of the seventh-century Muslim conquest and Byzantine collapse. Transformation of late antique North Africa into a component of Islamic civilization. Topography and issues of the autochthonous populations will receive some analysis. Most of the required reading will be on reserve, for there is no standard textbook. Readings in translated primary sources as well as the latest modern scholarship.

ANTH 36610. Archaeological Field Studies: Method and Theory in African Historical Archaeology, Exploring the Ngasobil Mission in Senegal (Richard). This course introduces students to the practice and theory of African historical archaeology through hands-on participation in an ongoing research program at the nineteenth-century Catholic Mission of Ngasobil (Senegal). Students learn basic fieldwork procedures, including surface documentation and collection, intensive transit mapping, shovel test surveys, excavation procedures, artifact processing, and preliminary artifact analysis. These are complemented by evening seminars and lectures examining salient theoretical questions and historical concerns that shape contemporary Senegalese archaeology.

ANTH 36611. Archaeological Field Studies: Material Culture Analysis of Goree Island in Senegal (Richard). This course introduces students to the analysis of historic material culture commonly encountered on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century sites in coastal West Africa. Using a combination of lectures and intensive hands-on work, students learn to identify and analyze major classes of artifacts that were made, used, and traded in Goree Island and coastal Senegal at the height of the Atlantic trade and during the colonial era.

ANTH 36612. Archaeological Field Studies: Senegal, Reading/Research (Richard). This course presents students with an opportunity to develop an independent project in consultation with the instructor, and to compile a selection of relevant readings to help them research their topic of interest. Student projects target a salient theme or question regarding the archaeology of history of Senegal. F. Richard. Not offered 2010–11; will be offered 2011–12.

ARTH 36612. Circa 1650: Art in a Global Age (Fromont). This course explores the artistic forms born of the exchange of knowledge, images, materials, and ideas among distant peoples across the globe in the wake of the age of exploration. Readings, discussion, and student research investigate the phenomenon of the cabinet of curiosity, the visual interactions between Europe and the Africans kingdoms of Benin and Kongo, colonial art and urbanism in Latin America, fumi-e ìpicture-treadingî in Japan, the visual culture of Dutch Brazil, and Baroque architecture from Rome to India. Class discussion and assignments make use of local collections such as the Art Institute and the Regenstein rare books collection.

LING 38355. Linguistic Introduction to Swahili I (Mpiranya). Spoken in ten countries of Eastern and Central Africa, Swahili has more speakers than any other language in the Bantu family, a group of more than 400 languages most prevalent in sub-equatorial Africa. Based on Swahili Grammar and Workbook, this course helps the students master key areas of the Swahili language in a fast yet enjoyable pace. Topics include sound and intonation patterns, noun class agreements, verb moods, and sentence structures. Additionally, this course provides important listening and expressive reading skills. For advanced students, historical interpretations are offered for exceptional patterns observed in Swahili, in relation with other Bantu languages. This is a general introduction course with no specific prerequisites.

LING 38370. African Languages (Mpiranya). One third of world languages are spoken in Africa, making it an interesting site for studying linguistic diversity and language evolution. This course presents the classification of different African language families and explains their historical development and interactions. It also presents the most characteristic features of African languages, focusing on those that are common in Africa but uncommon among other world languages. Additionally, the course addresses the issue of language dynamics in relation to socioeconomic development in Africa. Using living audio and written material, students will familiarize themselves with at least one major language selected from the Niger-Congo family, the most prevalent family in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a general introduction course with no specific prerequisites.

HIST 38704. Race in the 20th Century Atlantic World (Holt and Auslander). This lecture course will provide an introduction to the workings of race on both sides of the Atlantic form the turn of the 20th century to the present. Topics covered will include: the very definition of the term "race"; politics on the naming, gathering and use of statistics on racial categories; the changing uses of race in advertising; how race figures in the politics and practices of reproduction; representations of race in children's books; race in sports and the media.  We will explore both relatively autonomous developments with in the nation-states composing the Atlantic world, but our main focus will be on transfer, connections, and influences across that body of water.  Most of the materials assigned will be primary sources ranging from films, fiction, poetry, political interventions, posters, advertisements, music, and material culture.  Key theoretical essays from the Caribbean, France, England, and the United States will also be assigned.

HIST 39414. Human Rights in Africa. This course examines the state and practice of human rights in Africa. It reviews efforts aimed at the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent, in the context of colonialism, apartheid and the authoritarianism of the post-colonial African State. It aims to develop awareness of the varying context of human rights violations in Africa, as well as efforts to promote human rights. Topics to be covered include the roleof the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in human rights protection; human rights and democracy; the new NEPAD initiative and prospects for greater human rights protection; economic, social and cultural rights and cultural challenges to human rights in Africa; human rights of women and children and other vulnerable groups (migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons); human rights and armed conflict in Africa; and future prospects for human rights in Africa. This course will situate Africa in the international human rights movement and enhance understanding of human rights laws, policies and practices.

ARTH 42111. Kongo in Theory (Fromont). The evocative words “Kongo” or “Congo” has been used to described a range of visual, material, and religious productions from Africa to the Americas – and back. Readings, discussions, and student research will analyze and challenge the historiography of seminal topics in which scholarship on the Congo/Kongo played a central role: magic, fetish, colonialism, popular culture, Afro-Christian religions, African aesthetics, cross-cultural conversion, art and context, diaspora, global art, cultural and historical continuities and change...

ARTH 42511. The Origin of the Fetish (Fromont). Borrowing its title from the 1987 article by William Pietz “The problem of the Fetish II: the Origin of the Fetish,” this graduate seminar will start with an examination of the social, religious and economic conditions under which the word fetish was coined, presumably in the 17th or 18th century, on the West African coast. The course will then consider the evolution of the word from an idiom descriptive of a type of objects created in the interactions between European travelers and Africans in the early modern period, to an analytical term that played a central role in the perception and study of non-Western art in general and African art in particular. Class discussion and readings will focus on the similarities and differences between the idea of fetish and neighboring notions of idol or curiosity and on the role played by religious and ideological discourses in the coining and posterity of the concept.

ENGL 44507. Decolonizing Literature and Film in Southern Africa Spring (Kruger). While ‘postcolonialism’ may turn a complex and contradictory history into a tidy theory, decolonizing highlights the uneven and unfinished processes of writing and filming national, transnational and anti-national narratives, from the cultural nationalism of the 1940s and 1950s to the possibly post-national present. We will explore the links as well as the differences among the literary and film cultures of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Angola, and examine the potential and pitfalls of applying postcolonial and other theories to these cultures. Authors may include Nadine Gordimer, Athol Fugard, Zakes Mda, Shimmer Chinodya, Yvonne Vera, Tsitsi Dangarembga,, Luandino Vieira, and Pepetela, and film makers Zoltan Korda, Sarah Maldoror, Oliver Schmitz, Zola Maseko; theory and political analysis may include anticolonial writing by Fanon, Mandela, Neto, and Cabral and contemporary critics: Ann McClintock, Njabulo Ndebele, Achille Mbembe, Robert Mshengu Kavanagh and others.

HIST 50004. Post-Colonial Africa. In recent years, the continent of Africa has been branded “the hopeless continent” and it has also inspired a line of thinking known as “Afropessimism,” a reference to Africa’s myriad and seemingly overwhelming economic and political challenges. But as critics have pointed out, these characterizations unfairly highlight destruction and devastation at the expense of more positive accomplishments and processes while they also ignore the complicity and contribution of western countries and institutions to conditions on the continent. This course will take up the complicated and fraught task of studying postcolonial Africa by considering academic research from a variety of disciplinary and epistemological perspectives. While historians have only recently started to delve into topics that stretch into the postcolonial era, scholars from other disciplines have developed a variety of tools and approaches to investigate contemporary African politics, cultures, and societies. By exploring the work of anthropologists, economists, historians and political scientists, we will read broadly on the experiences of Africans in the second half of the twentieth century as well as on efforts to theorize the meaning of the postcolonial “condition”. Themes that we will cover include: decolonization and post-colonial states; neoliberalism and African modernities; migration and urbanization; the cultures and politics of religion; development and globalization; and popular culture and memory. This course will give students the opportunity to compare and contrast the questions and methodologies of different disciplines and come to their own conclusions about the most effective ways to assess and interpret change and transformation in postcolonial Africa.

HIST 55500. Colonialism, Globalization, Postcolonialism (Austen).

HIST 55955. Advanced Readings in Precolonial African History (Osborn). This graduate level readings course is designed to introduce students to major historiographical debates on precolonial Africa. Part I of the course considers the sources and methods used by Africanists to study precolonial states and societies. Part II explores the emergence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its legacies in Africa and the Americas.

HIST 62206. Slavery, Freedom and the Making of the Atlantic World to 1888 (Saville)