[skip to content]

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) in African Studies

Overview

Supervision is provided for research leading to MPhil and PhD degrees within the broad general area of African studies. Research topics such as the study of a language (from a descriptive, comparative, philological or textual point of view), or of literature (whether author-based, thematic or comparative), or of any of the performing arts, which falls within our own core expertise, are supervised entirely in the Department. However, there is great potential for extending the range of topics by means of joint supervision with colleagues from other departments and centres.

Some Recent Research Theses

  • Lizzy Attree, ‘The Literary Response to HIV and AIDS in South Africa and Zimbabwe, 1990-2005’
  • Mark Brogden, 'The Culture of Exploration: British Expeditions to Northern Nigeria 1822–1827'
  • Zoë Norridge, ‘Perceptions of Pain: Narratives of Hurt and Healing in Contemporary African Literature’
  • Betty Sibongile Dlamini, 'Women and Theatre for Development in Swaziland'

Academic Staff and their Research Areas

Dr Lindiwe Dovey BA(Harvard) PHD(Cantab)
African film and video; literary adaptation in Africa; filmic mediations of African performance arts (music, dance, theatre); contemporary film theory and ‘World Cinema’; representations of exile, immigration and violence; structures of African film production, distribution, and exhibition; African film festivals.

Dr Kai Easton BA(Gettysburg) MA PHD(London)
Colonial and postcolonial studies; South African literature (the Cape, Wicomb, Coetzee); gender and the cultures of travel; Indian Ocean diasporas; intertextuality; fiction, history, and autobiography.

Professor Graham Furniss BA PHD(London)
African language literature; comparative African literature; Hausa language, linguistics and literature.

Dr Chege Githiora BA(Mexico) PHD(Michigan)
Swahili and Gikuyu language, linguistics; Translation and Lexicography; African Diaspora Studies.

Professor Philip J Jaggar BA MPHIL(London) MA PHD(UCLA)
Hausa language and linguistics; comparative Chadic

Dr Lutz Marten MA PHD(London)
Bantu languages and linguistics, Herero, Swahili, syntax, semantics, pragmatics

Professor Jeff Opland BA, BSc, MA, PhD (Cape Town)
Folklore and oral literature; African praise poetry; the history of Xhosa literature

Dr Martin Orwin BA PHD(London)
Somali and Amharic language and literature; metrics; phonology

Dr Kwadwo Osei-Nyame BA(Ghana) DPHIL(Oxon)
Post-colonial writing with special reference to anglophone and francophone African American writing; comparative national literatures

Dr Akin Oyètádé BA(IFE) DIPLING PHD(London)
Yoruba language and literature; Yoruba culture and linguistics with special reference to phonology; Yoruba in the diaspora

Dr Alena Rettová PHD(Charles University, Prague)
Swahili literature; African philosophy; Afrophone philosophical discourses; literatures in African languages.

Structure

All students register in year 1 of the programme as MPhil students. The upgrade from MPhil to PhD takes place at the end of the first academic session for full time students (or at the end of the second academic session for part time students).

All new MPhil/PhD students are provided with a supervisory committee of three members, comprising a main or primary supervisor, and a second and third supervisor. The split in time commitment across the supervisory committee is 60:25:15. In the first year students are expected to meet their main supervisor on a bi-weekly basis for a period of at least one hour.

The student’s primary supervisor is always a member of the Department in which the student is registered. The second and third supervisors, who act in a supplementary advisory capacity, may be from the same Department, or other Departments/Centres in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures or in Departments/Centres in the other Faculties of the School.

Depending on the nature of the research, joint supervision is sometimes recommended, under the direction of two primary supervisors. In such cases the student has only one further supervisor on their committee.

The student’s progress is further overseen by a Departmental Research Tutor.

In the first year, students prepare for research by following a research training seminar series (RTS) convened at the Faculty level by the Associate Dean for Research and supported by the generic training on offer in the Academic Development Directorate (ADD). See http://www.soas.ac.uk/add/

Students working in the fields of literature and cultural studies are also invited to participate in the additional training offered in the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS). See http://www.soas.ac.uk/cclps/degrees/phd/

Students may also be encouraged by supervisors to attend additional taught courses relevant to their research and to their training needs. These may include specialist disciplinary, language or regional culture courses or research training in other Departments outside the Faculty.

Year 1 full time students (year 2 for part time students)  are required to submit a core chapter (of about 10,000 words), and associated materials for their upgrade presentation by Friday 10th May 2013.  The format/content of the core chapter is agreed between the supervisor and the student, but it will typically include the following elements:

1. Research rationale and context of proposed research
2. Main research questions
3. Literature review (this may be a section in its own right, or relevant material will be integrated into the chapter)
4. Bibliography

The upgrade presentation (no longer than 20-25 minutes) will be based on the core chapter and provide an overview and perhaps highlight a section of the chapter.  The presentation material should be submitted with the core chapter as an appendix: any handouts/powerpoints should also be included here, and details of the following may also be addressed:

1. Proposed research methods
2. Ethical issues (where applicable)
3. Outlining structure of PhD dissertation
4.Schedule of research and writing

Adjustments to one or more of these sections, including additions or deletions where appropriate, are possible by prior arrangement between the students and lead supervisors.

The upgrade process from MPhil to PhD status is based upon an assessment of the core chapter by the student’s research committee, and upon on a 20-30 minute oral presentation, followed by a discussion. The oral presentation is given to Departmental staff and research students. A mini viva with only the supervisory committee is held following the presentation. On successful completion of the extended proposal, students are formally upgraded to PhD and proceed to the second year. (If the assessors consider there to be shortcomings in the upgrade proposal, students will be asked to revise it to their satisfaction before the upgrade to PhD status can be confirmed.) Students are not normally permitted to proceed to the second year until the upgrade process has been completed.

The second year (or part time equivalent) is normally spent engaged in research. This may be by any combination of fieldwork and research in libraries and material collection as agreed between the student and the supervisor(s).

The third year (or part time equivalent) is devoted to writing up research for the PhD thesis. During this time, students will normally give a presentation in a research seminar organised by the Departmental Research Tutor, comprising a select number of staff members with special expertise in the topic and other research students. During the third year (or part time equivalent) students will present draft chapters to their main supervisor for comment, before completing a final draft of the thesis. Once a full draft is complete, the work is assessed by all members of the supervisory committee and the student can either submit the thesis or move on to Continuation Status to be given a further 12 months to complete the thesis and submit for examination. The thesis must be completed within 48 months from the time of registration (or part time equivalent).

The thesis – not to exceed 100,000 words in length - is examined by two leading authorities in the field, one of whom is internal to the University of London and one of whom is external to the University.

PhD Degrees are awarded by SOAS from registration in 2013 and are subject to SOAS regulations.

A Student's Perspective

Previously I just dreamed about SOAS. I had some lectures on Africa while studying Social Anthropology in Hungary, and I discovered that my professor had studied at SOAS. This made me work hard to join SOAS.

Katalin Kovacs