African Studies

Professors: Somda (Director)

The concentration in African Studies offers students the opportunity to study Africa, its people, and its societies from a perspective that provides a holistic understanding of the continent. In order to provide concentrators with an in-depth understanding of African peoples and cultures, histories, and the political, economic, and ecological environments, the program draws upon the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities.

In addition, students will develop a heightened awareness of the long-term and complex relationship between Africa and the West. A core curriculum of courses, coupled with study abroad opportunities and an ongoing series of campus events including speakers, special programs, and visiting scholars, will provide students with a foundation for future work and/or study in African studies and related fields.

Requirements for the Concentration in African Studies

Number of Units
Six units are required.

Required Courses
AFST/HIST 104 Introduction to African Studies
AFST/HIST 276 Civilizations of Africa
AFST/HIST 277 Contemporary Africa

Three additional courses chosen from the following list. Courses should include Africa specific study abroad subject to approval by the Director of African Studies.

AFST/POLS 248 Politics of Sub-Saharan Africa
AFST/HIST 273 Atlantic Slave Trade
AFST/HIST/RELG 274 Islam in Africa
AFST/ANSO 290 Africa in Global Context
AFST/FREN 445 Afro-Perspectives
ENGL 221 African Literature

Concentrators are encouraged to take as many core and elective courses as possible.

Courses taken abroad and at other U.S. colleges and universities, or with guest scholars on campus, may meet a concentration requirement. Students are encouraged to speak with the Director of African Studies as they develop their program.

Kalamazoo College also operates study abroad programs in Africa: Kenya, Senegal, Egypt, and Botswana. These give students an intensive academic and intercultural experience in an African region. The specific African countries in which the College operates are listed in the “Center for International Programs” section of this catalog.

African Studies Courses

AFST 104 Introduction to African Studies This course introduces students to the history of Africa and its peoples, its activities and traditions in the medieval through the post-independence period. For purposes of organization, the course explores four major themes: Medieval Africa, Africa Meets the World, The Myth and Invention of Africa and Europe Meets Africa.
AFST 248 Politics of Sub-Saharan Africa This course offers an in-depth perspective on the study of Sub-Saharan African politics. It examines Africa's post independence democratic strides, security issues, and the failure and successes of statism. It specifically exposes students to the challenges and the conundrum of the postindependence state and the efforts in dealing with such challenges in Africa. The end of the Cold War as well as the demise of apartheid affected the political landscape in Africa, thus strengthening the role of grassroots organizations and of other external forces to engage in the process of state reconstruction.
AFST 273 Atlantic Slave Trade This course examines the complex web of connections that linked together the various lives and fates of Africans, Europeans, and Americans via the Atlantic slave trade. It analyzes the mode of enslavement of Africans by slavers in Africa, the experiences of slaves in the Middle Passage, and the impact of the trade on continental and Diasporan Africans. It also explores the role played by Africa-based abolitionist movements in ending the trade in Atlantic Africa.
AFST 276 Civilizations of Africa Study of Africa south of the Sahara including the origins of man and the emergence of food producing communities; Ancient Egypt and pre-colonial African kingdoms and federations; medieval empires of western Sudan, Ethiopia, and Bantu-speaking Africa; and the Atlantic slave trade. Emphasis on socio-political and economic history.
AFST 277 Contemporary Africa Study of Africa south of the Sahara including colonialism and the anti-colonial struggles of the post-WWII period.
AFST 279 Special Topics in African History Africa Confidential explores the relationships between secrets, the embodied practices of secret keeping, power, and the production of specialized knowledge in Africa. This course advances three related objectives: (1) Help student develop the analytical tools required to use compartmentalized knowledge in historical work; (2) build the capacity to assess conventional sources about the past and appraise the epistemological value of unconventional sources; and (3) habituate the interrogation of sources and narratives. With a focus on the frictions (and violence) attendant to the maintenance and policing of different types of secrets, this course uses specific case studies across space and time to explore the latent linkages between a source's content, secret provenance, historical context and circumstances of production and reproduction.
AFST 279 ST: Decolonization in Africa The course examines the growth of anti-colonial nationalism, the end of colonial rule, and post- independence in West and Southern Africa. It also identifies and illuminates the complex and contested aims of decolonization in these two regions. We will examine the different ways in which race, ethnicity, class, and gender shaped the African nationalist movement strategies and agendas, and how these identities continued to shape post-colonial state politics and societies. The course reviews these topics within specific African countries' contexts, including Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Ghana. We will also review these topics within specific non-African countries' contexts, including the United Kingdom, United States, Portugal, and Soviet Union.
AFST 290 Africa in Global Context This course examines the ways that people and places on the African continent have been and continue to be connected to global dynamics and explores the implications of these past and present connections for people's lives as they are lived today. Must have taken ANSO-103.
AFST 295 On Being Human in Africa The course examines the multiple experiences of Africans (their racialized and gendered existences, their affective relations, their ways of relating to and caring for each other and the land) and explores what it means to think and write about Africa. The course examines representations and discourses including fiction, academic writing, and social media and considers new paradigms and innovative technologies. Sophomores only
AFST 426 Lest We Forget: Memory and Identity in the African Diaspora What is memory? What is identity? And how do we understand the relationship between these two concepts, particularly for communities once defined as commodities? Research suggests the significance of origins in the formation of individual and collective identity. However, for the African diaspora, origins and the memory associated with it are traversed by trauma and displacement engendered by slavery, the middle passage, and contemporary structural oppressions. This course explores the different ways memory is deployed by the African diaspora as both a protective and resistance apparatus to construct identity and support citizenship claims to their contemporary nation-states. Must have taken 1 ANSO 300-level course or with instructor permission.
AFST 445 Afro-Perspectives Today, the channels of knowledge production and distribution are heavily dominated by Western thinkers and institutions. As a consequence of that unequal relationship, voices from former colonial spaces, such as Africa, remain largely unacknowledged in scholarship even when such scholarship address circumstances specific to those marginalized spaces. This course uses a variety of media (comics, films, novels, songs, etc) to emphasize epistemic knowledge produced by African intellectuals about how Africans perceive, interact, and position themselves in relation to local and global questions such as fashion, immigration, diaspora, environment, feminism, race, Female Genital Cutting, etc. Course is taught in French. Must have taken FREN-301.
AFST 455 Letters From the Francophonie Fictional letters are powerful media through which authors explore themes of romance and friendship while also addressing various contemporary social issues such as otherness, climate and social activism, and racism. Using various texts (letters, film, social media) from across three centuries of French-language productions, this class surveys the milestones of the epistolary genre while also giving students the opportunity to hone their own writing and speaking skills in creative ways. Must have taken FREN-301.
AFST 498 Independent Study
AFST 593 Senior Integrated Project Each program or department sets its own requirements for Senior Integrated Projects done in that department, including the range of acceptable projects, the required background of students doing projects, the format of the SIP, and the expected scope and depth of projects. See the Kalamazoo Curriculum -> Senior Integrated Project section of the Academic Catalog for more details. Permission of department and SIP supervisor required.
AFST 600 Teaching Assistantship