SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Approaches to African Studies: Concepts, Methods and Theories

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

The module introduces students to different conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of Africa, and provides the wider intellectual background for the MA African Studies programme. We will look at how Africa has been conceptualized and represented at different times and from different perspectives, and investigate different views of Africa as a physi-cal, social and cultural space. We will explore how Africa relates to its Di-aspora and the wider world, through historical links and connections, trade and migration, and new digital communication. Particular attention will be placed on colonialism and colonial legacies, as well as on recent discours-es on decolonizing currently underway in many public domains.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  1. Identify current debates and discussions on topics of particular importance for understanding Africa such as those covered in the syllabus
  2. Evaluate new and alternative concepts, narratives and debates on, as well as about the continent and its multiple diasporas
  3. Devise critical frameworks in thinking beyond mainstream representation of Africa as a physical, political, social and cultural space.
  4. Conduct quality research in African studies with rigorous methodology and sound theories.


2 hours of class per week (1h lecture, 1h seminar).

Scope and syllabus

Main topics of the syllabus include:

  • Conceptualizations and representations of Africa
  • Africa as a physical, social and cultural space
  • African diasporas
  • historical links and connections, trade and migration
  • digital communication
  • Youth and urban culture
  • Music and verbal art
  • Architecture and nature
  • Borders and boundaries
  • Multilingualism

Method of assessment

  • 1500-word essay (40% of total grade) due Term 2
  • 2500-word essay (60% of total grade) due Term 3
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules