Undergraduate Classes

A number of classes taught at the University of Chicago feature Africa prominently, see below for a sampling. Check the Course Catalogue for current offerings. African Civilization is taught on an annual basis, as is the Colonizations Core, which may also be of interest to students studying Africa.

Additional language options are available through the University of Chicago Language Center.

ANTH 22735: The Collective Selfand Its Others in Contemporary Political Communities | Natacha Nsabimana.

In this undergraduate seminar, we think about the relationships between violence and the formation of contemporary political communities. Focusing on different geographical spaces from Africa (Rwanda), the Americas (Haiti, Canada and the U.S.) and Australia, we ask questions such as: is violence essential to the founding of political communities? How do different societies construct ideal notions of membership and exclusion, effect a sense of belonging? How are these narratives contested by diverse segments of society? Primarily using ethnographic monographs, a principal aim of the course is to think through the relationships between the present and the constituted past. We consider how this past structures our understanding of the political present, the sense of belonging and the anticipated future.

 

HIST 10103/ANTH20703/CRES20703: African Civilizations III | Katie Hickerson

Introduction to African Civilization introduces students to African history in a three-quarter sequence. Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required; this sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. Part Three investigates the long nineteenth century. It considers the Egyptian conquest of Sudan, Omani colonialism on the Swahili coast, and Islamic reform movements across the Sahara. It will also explore connections between the end of the transatlantic slave trade and the formal colonization of the African continent.

SWAH 25400/35400: Elementary Swahili III | Fidèle Mpiranya

Swahili is the most popular language of Sub-Saharan Africa, spoken in most countries of Eastern and Central Africa by more than 50 million people. Swahili is characterized by the typical complex Bantu structure. However, it is particularly easy to pronounce and fast learned.The Elementary Swahili series is designed to help students acquire communicative competence in Swahili and a basic understanding of its structures. The course presents basic phonological, grammatical, and syntactic patterns of Kiswahili. Through a variety of exercises, students develop communicative functionality in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Emphasis is put on dialogues and role-plays, individual and group presentations, and the use of audiovisual and web-based resources. Swahili culture and African culture in general are an important component of the course. At the end of the elementary course series, the students are able to communicate efficiently in everyday life situations, write and present short descriptive notes about elementary pieces of verbal creation (documentaries and video series in Swahili).

 

PPHA 32735: African Development | James A. Robinson

This class provides an introduction to, and interpretation of, the social scientific and historical research on African development. The emphasis is on economic and political development in the longue durée and trying to understand how Africa fits into the comparative picture. The focus of much research on contemporary African development is of course on poverty, famine, civil war and the immense economic challenges that the continent has faced since independence. We shall study these and their roots and also many of the political correlates that go along with them, such as the weakness of African states, their corruption and problems of autocracy and democracy. But to get a deep understanding of these phenomena entails understanding African society, how it is organized, why it is organized as it is,and how it has come into collision with global forces in the past 500 years.

 

ENG 24400: Brecht & Beyond | Loren Kruger

Brecht is indisputably the most influential playwright in the 20th century, but his influence on film theory and practice and on cultural theory generally is also considerable. In this course we will explore the range and variety of Brecht's own theatre, from the anarchic plays of the 1920's to the agitprop Lehrstück and film esp. Kühle Wampe) to the classical parable plays, as well as the work of his heirs in German theatre (Heiner Müller, Peter Weiss) and film (RW Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge), in French film (Jean-Luc Godard) and cultural theory (the Situationists and May 68), film and theatre in Britain (such as Caryl Churchill or Mike Leigh), theatre and film in Africa, from South Africa to Senegal, and if possible a film or play from the US that engages with Brechtian theory and/or practice.

 

HIST 2011: History of Death | Katie Hickerson

From the treatment of mortal remains to the built environment of cemeteries, tombs, and memorials, the dead have always played a role in the lives of the living. This course examines how beliefs and practices surrounding death have been a source of meaning making for individuals, institutions, religious communities, and modern nations. It will ask students to consider how examining death makes it possible to better understand the values and concerns of societies across time and space. This course will consider case studies from Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, North America, Europe, and Asia, from the Middle Ages to the Vietnam War. It introduces students to the methods and debates that animate the historical study of death—coming from histories of the body, social history, and the study of slavery—and ends by asking the question: "Is it possible to have a global history of death?"

LING 28380/38380, 28381/38381: Introduction to Kinyarwanda I | Fidèle Mpiranya

Spoken by around 18 million in Central and Eastern Africa, Kinyarwanda / Kirundi is one of the most spoken Bantu languagesand has the status of an official language in Rwanda and Burundi. Based on a conversation book and a grammar guide, this course integrates speaking practice and linguistic discussion. It will allow the students to understand fundamental structures of Kinyarwanda in various areas.Topics include sound and tonal patterns, noun class agreements, verb moods, and sentence structures. Additionally, this course provides important listening and expressive reading skills. It will allow the students to discover elements of Rwandan culture and to participate in elementary conversation about everyday life in Kinyarwanda.This is a general introduction course with no specific prerequisites. It counts as a linguistics class for linguistics majors. It also allows fulfilling the non-Indo-European language requirement.

 

PPHA 32740: Order & Violence | Chris Blattman

Most countries in the world have been independent for about 50 years. Some are peaceful and have prospered, while some remain poor, war-torn, or both. What explains why some countries have succeeded while others remain poor, violent, and unequal? This class to is designed to be acomplement to the Why Nations Fail class. Thus students can receive credit for both. Students are slightly discouraged from taking both classes unless international development and conflict is their specialty.

 

Please email Christine Taylo (ctaylo@uchicago.edu) with any questions.