African Political Thought

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This module considers some of the following topics;

  • Antecedents: race and romanticism in Africa – from WEB du Bois to the Manchester Conference to Senghor’s ‘negritude’.
  • The thought of liberation: Cabral and the Lusophonic thinkers; the ‘pacific’ counterpoint of Kaunda.
  • The New African Man: the political thought of transformation – Kaunda, Nyerere, Obote, Nkrumah.
  • The degeneration into ‘Big Men’: case studies of Mobutu and Banda; the critique of Mbembe.
  • The coup ‘artists’ and the new nationalisms-on-command: from Gowon to Rawlings; the contrasts between Sankara and Amin; the contrasts and similarities between Obasanjo and Abacha.
  • The old liberationists and their reassertion in new nationalisms: Mugabe’s political thought.
  • Africa in the world: Mbeki’s African Renaissance – nostalgia and the toleration of the carnivalesque; Ngugi’s linguistic chauvinism; Mandaza’s neo-Marxist retrospection.
  • The call for democracy: the critique of Soyinka; new constitutionalisms and the looking eastwards to China, Singapore and Malaysia; the model of Russian democracy.
  • Pan-Africanism today: thought on the African Union.
  • African intellectual currents and philosophy today: going it alone vs integration with a hegemonic world; Africa and the ICC, Africa and electronic globalisation; the thought of the outlawed commons.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


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

  • Understand African political thought and debate throughout the period leading to decolonisation, the years of independence, and reflective thought some 50 years after independence
  • Apply their learning to the understanding of contemporary African politics
  • Appreciate the different strands of political thought in different parts of Africa, their relationship to distinct histories and cultures, and their efforts towards a unified body of thought in the face of analyses and diagnoses of contemporary globalisation.
  • Problematise African political thought by means of both critique and contextualisation.




This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:
• 1 hour lecture per week
• 1 hour tutorial per week


Method of assessment


Assignment 1: Essay 50%
Unseen written exam 50%


Suggested reading

Stephen Chan, Grasping Africa, London: I.B. tauris 2007 .



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules