SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

African Political Thought

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. 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.
  2. Application of learning to the understanding of contemporary African politics.
  3. 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.
  4. The ability to problematise African political thought by means of both critique and contextualisation.


  • 1 hour lecture per week 1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. Antecedents: race and romanticism in Africa – from WEB du Bois to the Manchester Conference to Senghor’s ‘negritude’.
  2. The thought of liberation: Cabral and the Lusophonic thinkers; the ‘pacific’ counterpoint of Kaunda.
  3. The New African Man: the political thought of transformation – Kaunda, Nyerere, Obote, Nkrumah.
  4. The degeneration into ‘Big Men’: case studies of Mobutu and Banda; the critique of Mbembe.
  5. 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.
  6. The old liberationists and their reassertion in new nationalisms: Mugabe’s political thought.
  7. Africa in the world: Mbeki’s African Renaissance – nostalgia and the toleration of the carnivalesque; Ngugi’s linguistic chauvinism; Mandaza’s neo-Marxist retrospection.
  8. The call for democracy: the critique of Soyinka; new constitutionalisms and the looking eastwards to China, Singapore and Malaysia; the model of Russian democracy.
  9. Pan-Africanism today: thought on the African Union.
  10. 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

One written 2 hour exam which makes up 50% of the total module mark.

One 3000 word assignment which makes up 50% of the total module mark.

Suggested reading

Stephen Chan, Grasping Africa, London: I.B. tauris 2007.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules