SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ethnography of East Africa

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This course provides an introduction to the richness and complexity of East African societies. The course focuses on a number of contemporary issues including love and sexuality, violence and justice, trade and popular economies, the impact of social change on ‘traditional’ social groups, and how social identity is seen through the prism of illness/spirit possession, gender, ethnicity, nationalism and race.

This module is one of several regional ethnography modules offered by the Department of Anthropology (currently China, Japan, South Asia, South East Asia, Near & Middle East, West Africa, and East Africa). Each of these focuses on major cultural and social aspects, but varies in detail according to the characteristics of and scholarship on the region. These 0.5 unit regional ethnography modules are designed (in the second year) to be combined - according to student interest and module availability - with a second regional ethnography module taught in a different term to form a compulsory full unit of ethnography modules (e.g., Japan and China; South Asia and Southeast Asia; South Asia and East Africa), or (in the third year) to be taken as a free-standing option. 

The grasp of theory, method and problem achieved in this module builds on the foundational skills in anthropology attained in the first year, and will enable students' progression, in their following year of study, to an Advanced Ethnographic Study with a focus on East Africa or connections between East Africa and other regions, and/or to an Independent Study Project.

Typical course outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. Gender, Possession and Identity
  3. Ethnicity, Identity and Masking
  4. Culture, Identity and Consumption
  5. Race and Citizenship
  6. (Reading Week)
  7. Conflict and Violence
  8. Health and Healing
  9. Love, Marriage and Sexuality
  10. Law and Justice
  11. Refugees and Migration


Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to: 

  1. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of ethnographic writing on the region;
  2. Critically engage with anthropological concepts and concerns about social change, culture and identity as these are experienced in the region;
  3. Analyze and critique ethnographic literature in written and oral form. 

Developing regional expertise is a key component of the study of anthropology, and central to programmes across the school. The learning outcomes are designed to ensure that students develop a solid grounding in the anthropology of East Africa, refine their ability to critically engage diverse literatures and communicate their knowledge in a variety of ways. These processes of comprehension, analysis and communication are central to all anthropology programmes, as well as to the broader humanities and social sciences at SOAS.  

Method of assessment

One piece of coursework (40%), written exam (50%), and tutorial participation (10%).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules