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School of Law

Law and society in Africa

Course Code:
155200033
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Full Year
Law and Society in Africa - is designed to introduce students to a different way of thinking about Africa; the continent and not, as Western media sometimes represents it, the country. It does that by challenging the presentations of the continent as hopeless. The course also focuses on the role of law in Commonwealth African countries. Reference will be made to other jurisdictions but the focus is on Commonwealth States. Although it is taught thematically, at the end of the year a student should have an understanding of the legal policies and culture of most of these countries. The themes discussed include customary law, courts and the settlement of disputes, land reform, family law, human rights, religion, health, water, indigenous people and minorities, including LGBTI individuals. Particular emphasis is placed on the relationship between law and society, and the effectiveness of law as an instrument of social change. Moreover, the course is designed to with a focus on African scholarship. Finally, the rich seam of African fiction is explored with reference to particular themes under discussion (eg gender).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Encourage the students to take a critical approach to the production of knowledge by engaging with material (books, blogs, newspapers and other media) written about African peoples and States and interrogating the perspective of the author(s).
  • Show an understanding of the legal policies and culture of most of Commonwealth African countries;
  • Differentiate how such topics as customary law, courts and the settlement of disputes, human rights, gender, conflict resolution, land reform and family law are dealt with in different Commonwealth African countries;
  • Explore through examples the effectiveness of law as an instrument of social change.

Method of assessment

  • Course work: 20% (2000 words) and 20% (2000 words)
  • Unseen written exam: 60%

Suggested reading

  • Anthony Appiah In my Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture  (Oxford, OUP, 1992).
  • Moyo, D Dead Aid: Why Aid is not working and there is another way for Africa (Penguin, 2009)
  • Tamale, S. (ed) African Sexualities (Pambazuka, 2011)
  • F. Viljoen Human Rights in Africa (Oxford, OUP, 2012)
    *Wainaina, B. “How to Write about Africa” in The View from Africa Granta  vol. 92  (http://www.granta.com/Magazine/92/How-to Write-about-Africa)