SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

The state and politics in Africa

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This course focuses on the domestic politics of sub-Saharan Africa since Independence and particularly the question of the state. Because of the sheer number and diversity of African states the course is structured thematically but the readings allow students to follow up regions and countries of particular interest. The main themes have been selected to familiarise students with some of the key issues in contemporary debates about African politics. The first part of the course focuses on the emergence and development of the African state and the theorising that has attended that process. Subsequently the themes of conflict, local and 'traditional' politics, new social forces, democratisation, state reform and public policy are considered.  To provide a more concrete support for these themes two African countries (these vary from year to year) are examined in some detail.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. To acquire knowledge about the domestic and international politics of Africa.
  2. To gain an understanding of different approaches to the domestic & international politics of Africa.
  3. To acquire a basic understanding of the relationship between the analysis of African politics and the theoretical analysis of politics in general, with reference both to some normative and empirical issues.


  • 1 hour lecture per week
  • 1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. Introduction to the course
  2. Colonialism and Colonial Rule
  3. Independence and Statehood
  4. African Nationalism
  5. The Neo-patrimonial theory of the state
  6. Traditional Politics
  7. Democratic Change and Elections
  8. New Social Forces
  9. Conflict and Instability
  10. Responses to Conflict and Instability

Method of assessment

Assessment is 50% essay (2500 words) and 50% essay (2500)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules