SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Government and Politics of Africa

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Broadly orient themselves to the history of Sub-Saharan Africa from the pre-colonial era to the present day.
  • Critically evaluate central theories and concepts from comparative politics, sociology, international relations and the political economy of development, and be able to demonstrate their uses and limits in relation to Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Make clear-headed arguments about contemporary political dynamics and events in Sub-Saharan Africa and connect broad theorisations to particular cases.
  • Acquire a body of knowledge applicable in both academic and policy/practitioner roles.   


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 2 hours seminar per week
  • 1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. A background to political sociology, including ‘decolonising knowledge’ as a theme of the course
  2. Pre-colonial and colonial state formation
  3. Pan-Africanism, nationalism and de-colonisation
  4. Ethnicity in post-colonial states
  5. One-party systems, coups and military rule
  6. Democratisation and electoral politics
  7. Elite networks, political settlements and state capture
  8. Civil society and social mobilisation
  9. Religion
  10. Gender

Method of assessment

Assignment 1 Essay 15%
Assignment 2 Essay 35%
Examination 50%

Suggested reading

  • Bruce Berman and John Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa. Oxford: James Currey (1992).
  • Jean-Francois Bayart, (1993) The State in Africa: the Politics of the Belly. Longman.
  • Stephen Ellis and Gerrie Ter Haar, (2004) Worlds of Power. Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa. New York, Oxford University Press.
  • Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz, (1999) Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument (The International African Institute and Indiana University Press.
  • V.Y. Mudimbe, (1994) The Idea of Africa (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana.
  • Achille Mbembe. (2001) On the Postcolony, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Timothy Murithi (2005) The African Union: Pan-Africanism, peacebuilding and development, London: Routledge.
  • Elizabeth Schmidt (2013) Foreign Intervention in Africa: from the Cold War to the War on Terror Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Frederick Cooper, (2014) Africa in the World, Harvard University Press.
  • James Ferguson (2006) Global Shadows: Africa in the neoliberal world order. Durham: Duke University Press). 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules