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.


ANTH20702/HIST10102/CRES20802: Introduction to African Civilization II | Ayodeji Olugbuyiro

This course examines the transformations of African societies in the long nineteenth century. At the beginning of the era, European economic and political presence was mainly coastal, but by the end, nearly the entire continent was colonized. This course examines how and why this process occurred, highlighting the struggles of African societies to manage internal reforms and external political, military, and economic pressures. Students examine these processes through various primary sources (such as visual and material sources, cultural artifacts, and personal accounts) that highlight African perspectives on these processes.

LING28355/LING38355/SWAH28355/SWAH38355: A Linguistic Introduction to Swahili I | Fidele 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.

SWAH25300/SWAH35300: Swahili II | Fidele 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). This course allows fulfilling the non-Indo-European language requirement.

SWAH26900/SWAH36900: Intermediate Swahili II | Fidele Mpiranya

Students focus on broadening their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in this course.

GNSE20007/HIST20007/RDIN20007: Africa in the Middle East and the Middle East in Africa | Katie Hickerson

From Mansa Musa’s Hajj in 1324 to the contemporary Afrobeats scene in Dubai, African and Middle Eastern societies share long histories of interconnection. This course examines these interconnections from the early modern to the contemporary era through a series of case studies ranging from traditions of exchange on the Swahili Coast, to the Ottoman Scramble for Africa, to the creation of a long-standing Lebanese diaspora in West Africa and a more recent Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. Students will examine debates that animate this field of scholarship including conversations about race; histories of slavery and its legacies; conceptions of indigeneity, nativism, and settler colonialism; religious encounters; gender and society; shared and divergent experiences of European colonialism and struggles for independence; and transnational collective-building projects such as Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism. In addition to scholarship based on textual analysis, students will develop skills to investigate cultural sources such as music, photography, film, fashion, literature, and sports. No prior coursework in Middle Eastern or African studies is required. However, a background in African Civ, Islamic History and Society Civ, or Islamic Thought and Literature Civ is recommended.

ARTH28328/CLCV25323/MDVL28328/RLST28328: Africa’s Byzantine Heritage: Religion and Art in Pluralistic Societies | Karin Krause

This quarter-length course is conceived around themes and artifacts of an innovative special exhibition titled Africa & Byzantium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that we will be visiting together (Feb. 16–18, 2024). It will be the first time a museum has showcased the important contributions of Africa’s multiethnic societies to the cultural and religious life of the Christian Empire of Byzantium. In addition, the Met boasts a world-renowned permanent collection of Byzantine artifacts, several of which we will be studying as well during our field trip.

The Byzantine Empire (4th cent.–1453) encompassed large parts of the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Anatolia, and the Middle East, with North and East Africa forming part of the empire from the fourth century CE to the Islamic conquest (early 7th cent.). Under Islamic rule, the African continent’s Byzantine-Christian legacy continued to be influential and has a rich afterlife to this day.

The field trip will enable students hone their competence in visual analysis through close-up study of artworks representing a range of artistic media and techniques. The classroom sessions will illuminate the historical and cultural framework in which the artifacts are situated. Africa’s Byzantine heritage is an emerging field of study and in this course students who wish to pursue their own research projects will have ample opportunity to do so. Students will also attend weekly discussion sections led by the TA. PQ: Students enrolled in this course will participate in a *mandatory* three-day field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Feb. 16–18, 2024). Travel and lodging will be fully covered through a Curricular Innovation and Undergraduate Research grant provided by the College.

Please email Ryan Eykholt with any questions.