module specification

GI6064 - African Politics (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title African Politics
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Portfolio of circa 3,000 words
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

This module looks at the alleged ‘crisis’ in contemporary Africa, focusing on problems of economic, social and political development. This module aims to challenge assumptions about the problems of contemporary Africa by examining these problems in detail and by looking at Africa’s place in the world.

Module aims

The broad aim of this module is to challenge the assumptions about the problems of contemporary Africa and its place in the world, in particular to:

  • examine the problems of African security and development through a wide approach, involving political, social and global perspectives, placing Africa within the larger theoretical frameworks and approaches to international relations;
  • encourage consideration of the relative responsibilities of Africans and those who promote or benefit from an unequal global system;
  • encourage students to think about the complexities of problem-solving in this context.


Nationalism and decolonisation;
Economic development;
Ethnicity and conflict;
Independence & the State;
Neo-patrimonial Theory of the African State;
Identity & ‘Traditional’ Politics; Conflict;
New Social Forces;
The Contemporary State & Liberal Development

Learning and teaching

Teaching consists of a weekly one hour lecture followed by a one hour tutorial. Lectures will involve a combination of taught lectures, videos and the use of first hand documents and websites. During the module seminars will combine a variety of methods including discussion based on pre-set questions, role plays, and presenting a briefing paper. Blended Learning will be a key component of the module. Lecture notes and first hand documents for use in class will be posted on line, as will web links for academic and governmental websites, as well as video links.  Some recorded material by the module tutor may also be made available on line and by e-mail.
Materials for use in class will be posted at least one week in advance on line to allow students to reflect on the subject and prepare. Questions for class discussion will be available from the beginning of the module via the Module Booklet, which will include a list of resources students can use to answer the questions and study the subject in greater depth.
Class discussions and assessment will encourage reflect learning and provide the opportunity for students to develop key employability skills whilst encourage personal development strategies and independent learning. An activity week will also form part of the syllabus.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students will be better equipped to:

  • Demonstrate a grasp of the problems of economic and political development in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Be able to assess critically the utility of various models and approaches in explaining these problems;
  • Be able to debate the role and ethics of the global/international system in African ‘underdevelopment’.

The transferable skills you should have developed include:

  • The ability to communicate effectively in speech and writing (for example, writing an essay using commonly accepted standards of definition, analysis, grammatical prose, and documentation);
  • Research skills, including the ability to synthesise and analyse complex arguments and exercise critical judgement;
  • The capacity to work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management, as well as co-operating with other students to achieve common goals.

Assessment strategy

One summative piece of work in the form of a 3,000 word portfolio, comprising three pieces of written work, each of around 1000 words. Students choose from three of the following four formats:

  1. Write-up of the student’s seminar presentation: This should be written in comprehensible English, without abbreviations but may consist of headings and brief notes as long as it is clear how the student’s argument is developed and what evidence is cited.  Copies of handouts and powerpoints must be included.
  2. Book review: Students will be asked to review one book from a list provided by the module convenor. The review should analyse the book’s argument, its place in the literature and its significance.  It must be analytical and critical throughout, rather than narrative, and may involve comparison with other work in the field or assess the problems and/or advantages of the format chosen.
  3. Contemporary themes: This piece is a comparison of different approaches to contemporary problems as expressed in academic and more popular sources.  It is not a description of the ‘plot’ or the artistic merits of the source chosen but an analysis of the viewpoints, arguments and, if relevant, the prescriptions for change put forward.  Students are encouraged to focus on these aspects, referring where relevant to the potential audiences and how they affect the approach of the author. They must choose from one of the following: a) Democracy - Is the transition from one-party states to multi-party democracies in Africa now irreversible?; b) Conflict - To what extent could it be argued that civil wars in Africa are almost inevitable?; c. Liberal Development - To what extent have outside agencies committed themselves to effecting social change in Africa, why have they done so and what consequences has it had?
  4. Contemporary events: Students will analyse the basis of one of a series of contemporary issues particular African states face.  How do authors account for events?  Are there significant differences?  What are the arguments and on what evidence are they based?  How convincing are the arguments?  What is the significance of each position?


Key texts include:
Fine, B., Lapavitsas, C. and Pincus, J. (eds.)(2001) Development Policy in the Twenty-first Century: Beyond the Post-Washington Consensus, Abingdon: Routledge.
Herbst, J., (2000) States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Mamdani, M., (1996) Citizen and Subject Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Migdal, J., (1988) Strong Society, Weak States, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Schatzberg, M., (2001)Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Young, T., (2010) Africa: A Beginner’s Guide, Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
On-line resources include: Journal of Modern History, Journal of African History, Journal of Modern African Studies, Africa Today, andColumbia International Affairs Online (which includes working papers, journal articles, books and other material from over 150 institutions