SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Culture in Africa

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module the students will be equipped with a good understanding of approaches to the study of culture in Africa. They will have explored in depth, the central themes of orality, performance and identity within the African context and will be able to illustrate these issues with reference to case studies from specific cultural areas of the continent. Students will be introduced to subject areas such as African literature and film in Africa. This, alongside the broad range of cultural areas covered, will assist them in choosing their individual fields of specialization in the subsequent years of their studies.


Total of 22 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

The aim of this module is to explore how certain dimensions of African culture influence and affect the behaviour of African peoples in their relationship to one another, and to others outside Africa. Several aspects of African culture will be introduced, with emphasis on performance, which finds expression not only as dance, music and drama, but also as forms of religious practice. 

Another feature, which emerges from the integral nature of performance in Africa, is orality, which in modern Africa exists side-by-side and interacts with literacy and written literature, the media and popular culture. This leads to an analysis of ways in which national and cultural identities are expressed through literary forms both oral and written. The module ends by considering dimensions of performance, religion and identity through popular culture in the African Diaspora.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (60%); one essay to be submitted on day 1, term 2 (15%); one essay to be submitted on day 1, term 3 (15%); two group presentations 10% (5% each).

Suggested reading

The reading list for this module will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the module.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules