[skip to content]

Department of Politics and International Studies

African Political Thought

Course Code:
15PPOH029
Unit value:
0.5
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Understanding of African political thought and debate throughout the period leading to decolonisation, the years of independence, and reflective thought some 50 years after independence.
  • Application of learning to the understanding of contemporary African politics.
  • Appreciation of different strands of political thought in different parts of Africa, their relationship to distinct histories and cultures, and their efforts towards a unified body of thought in the face of analyses and diagnoses of contemporary globalisation.
  • The ability to problematise African political thought by means of both critique and contextualisation.

Workload

Two lectures and one tutorial per week for 10 weeks. 

Scope and syllabus

It will be the key Africanist contribution to the new and wide-ranging MSc in Comparative Political Thought, mounted by the Department of Politics and International Studies.

Syllabus:

  • Antecedents: race and romanticism in Africa – from WEB du Bois to the Manchester Conference to Senghor’s ‘negritude’.
  • The thought of liberation: Cabral and the Lusophonic thinkers; the ‘pacific’ counterpoint of Kaunda
  • The New African Man: the political thought of transformation – Kaunda, Nyerere, Obote, Nkrumah.
  • The degeneration into ‘Big Men’: case studies of Mobutu and Banda; the critique of Mbembe.
  • The coup ‘artists’ and the new nationalisms-on-command: from Gowon to Rawlings; the contrasts between Sankara and Amin; the contrasts and similarities between Obasanjo and Abacha.
  • The old liberationists and their reassertion in new nationalisms: Mugabe’s political thought.
  • Africa in the world: Mbeki’s African Renaissance – nostalgia and the toleration of the carnivalesque; Ngugi’s linguistic chauvinism; Mandaza’s neo-Marxist retrospection.
  • The call for democracy: the critique of Soyinka; new constitutionalisms and the looking eastwards to China, Singapore and Malaysia; the model of Russian democracy.
  • Pan-Africanism today: thought on the African Union.
  • African intellectual currents and philosophy today: going it alone vs integration with a hegemonic world; Africa and the ICC, Africa and electronic globalisation; the thought of the outlawed commons.

Method of assessment

Unseen written examination contributing 70% to the total mark.

3000 word essay contributing 30% to the total mark. 

Suggested reading

  • Edmond Wilmot Blyden, Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race, Baltimore: Black Classic, 1994
  • WEB du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks, New York: Penguin, 1996.
  • CLR James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, New York: Random House, 1963.
  • John Henrik Clarke with Amy Jacques Garvey (ed.), Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa, New York: Random House, 1974.
  • Patrick Chabal, Amilcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People’s War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
  • Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia Shall be Free, London: Heinemann, 1962.
  • Stephen Chan, Kaunda and Southern Africa, London: IB Tauris, 1992.
  • Kwame Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite, New York: International Publishers, 1970.
    David Birmingham, Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism, Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998.

  • Julius Nyerere, Freedom and Socialism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.
  • Henry Bienen, Tanazania: Party Transformation and Economic Development, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.
  • Milton Obote, ‘The Common Man’s Charter’, radiorhino.org
  • Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
  • Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Zaire, New York: Haper Collins, 2001.
  • Robert I. Rotberg, The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa, Camb. Mass: Harvard University Press, 1965.
  • Stephen Chan, Grasping Africa, London: IB Tauris, 2007, Chapter 4.
  • Paul Collier, War, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, New York: Harper Collins, 2009.
  • Christopher Cramer, Civil War is not a Stupid Thing, London: Hurst, 2006.
  • Stephen Chan, Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.
  • Stephen Chan, Citizen of Zimbabwe: Conversations with Morgan Tsvangirai, Harare: Weaver, 2010.
  • William Mervin Gumede, Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC, London: Zed, 2007.
  • Stephen Chan, Southern Africa: Old Treacheries and New Deceits, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.
  • Reinhard Sanders and Bernth Lindfors (eds.), Ngugi wa Thiongo Speaks, Oxford: James Currey, 2006.
  • Ibbo Mandaza (ed.), Zimbabwe: The Political Economy of Transition 1980-1986, Dakar and Harare: CODESRIA, 1987.
  • Wole Soyinka, The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Samir Amin, Global History: A View from the South, Cape Town: Pambazuka, 2011.
  • Samir Amin, Eurocentrism, Cape Town: Pambazuka, 2011.
  • Samir Amin, Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism, Cape Town: Pambazuka, 2011.