SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Photography and the Image in Africa

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

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key themes, issues and debates within the study of photography and visual culture as these pertain to African photographers.
  •  To be able to outline historical trajectories of photography in Africa relevant to their research interests.
  •  To be able to assess critically the materials and themes explored in the course and evaluate different approaches by art historians and visual theorists in evaluating production, distribution and consumption of photography within Africa and globally.
  •  To have been introduced and demonstrate the use of the range of skills used in art history and visual culture and the use of independent study and research skills as developed during the course.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

This course adopts a thematic approach to the study of photography in Africa and the discourses that underpin its practice. Photography is categorised as still, moving and digital photography. The course considers the production, distribution and consumption of African photography. Particular historical trajectories of African photography and African photographers are the principal focus with various case studies deployed in order to evaluate different modes of framing photography in relation to a range of theoretical discourses. These provides critical purchase for students to assess the hegemonic statuses of Euramerican discourses on photography. Core thematic issues are

  •  The relationships claimed between the photographic image and its referent: including the debate of “science” and “art” and as pertains to African photgraphers
    • Examining the social: the relations constituted by the image in relation to idealogy or discourse and inter-related themes of hegemony and resistance
  •  Localised histories of photographic ideas and practice in Africa
  •  The materiality of the photographic artefact
  •  Mass replication of the photographic image and its implications within a range of media

It complements the various programmes by offering photography as a lens for considering theoretical, methodological and regional issues of visuality relevant to the aims and objectives of the programmes specified.

Method of assessment

  • 700-word book review (worth 20%)
  • 2,000-word essay (worth 60%)
  • Slide test (worth 20%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules