SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Historical Perspectives on Gender in Asia, Africa and the Middle East

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

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • An understanding of gender research as applied to the history of sub-Saharan Africa;
  • The ability to identify the theoretical framework of gender research in Africa and to apply it to specific regional contexts and case studies;
  • The proficiency to present the results of student’s own research in an articulate way that stimulates group discussion and peer cooperation;
  • The ability to critically evaluate historical literature and use it to prove analytical skills in written and oral form.
  • The ability to research and write an essay using appropriate scholarly language and critical tools.
  • The capability to draw upon knowledge and skills acquired during the course make it possible to answer examination essay questions.


Two hours of seminars each week for one term (10 weeks + a revision week in term 3)

Scope and syllabus

This course explores African history from a gender perspective using the theoretical framework of contemporary gender studies. Students will be introduced to the challenges of applying a gendered perspective to the study of African history. This is achieved not only by examining how gendering African history allows the reintegration of African women into historical narratives - “women” not being synonymous with “gender” – but also and above all by engaging in an epistemological rethinking of the categories, methodologies, and sources we use to write African history.
The course will invite students to (re)think about from where gendered categories come, and to examine how “gender” is sustained by its own histories, connotations, and conceptual roles.
We will analyse gender in relation to other concepts, such as class, race, ethnicity, imperialism, generation and sexuality and how these categories shaped the historical experiences of African women and men. The course focuses on how politics, economics and law in Africa have maintained, enforced, and produced gender across time and space; how these dimensions have also been affected by the shifting landscapes of power and specific discourse on gender; and how certain patterns of femininities and masculinities have been constructed, rejected and appropriated within this framework.

  1. Introduction: Gendering African History
  2. Gender and Feminist Theories in Africa: Challenges to Western Feminisms
  3. African Sisterhood? Gender, Ethnicity, Class and Seniority in Africa
  4. Fracturing Binarisms: Gender and Colonialisms
  5. Gender and Religious Change
  6. Whose Justice? Gender and the Law
  7. Performing Masculinities
  8. Gender in Changing Political Landscapes
  9. Gender, Love and Sexualities
  10. Conclusion: Africa after Gender?

Method of assessment

Essay of 3,000 words worth 80% of the final mark, Reaction paper/book review of 1,000 words worth 20% of the final mark


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules