Spring 2018 Courses

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George Clement Bond Center for African Education

Teachers College, Columbia University

Spring 2018 Courses


Detailed survey, utilizing contributions from theoretical approaches to anthropological research in the area. Emphasis on socioeconomics, community studies, and sociopolitical analyses.


COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY COURSES (Click here for more information)



This course focuses on economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa from a political economy perspective. It is divided into three sections. The first section examines the broad economic trends, policies and strategies of the past 50 years. The Washington Consensus and the "lost decades" are examined in some detail. The focus of this part is on economic growth and structural change, notably the controversies around economic policies and institutions. In the second section the course turns to socioeconomic dimensions and aspects of development including poverty, inequality, employment, health, education, and gender. The final section concludes with an examination of the implications of climate change, debates around foreign aid and an overview of what we have learned. Some readings are to be finalized.



This course will consider five of the major kingdoms from across the continent: Benin, Kongo, Ethiopia, the Cameroon Grassfields kingdoms, and the Akan states. Two-week units on each kingdom will present thematic topics that will allow students to evaluate the relationship between the flourishing of artistic forms and the development of monarchies and hierarchical systems of rulership. They will be able to chart the development of complex iconographical systems in use from ancient to contemporary times, considering the interaction between kingdoms within Africa and throughout the globe. Challenging readings will spur debates about the nature of power, tradition, memory, and museums as they relate to the arts of each of these unique kingdoms.



Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required. This course deals with the scholarship on gender and sexuality in African history. The central themes of the course will be changes and continuities in gender performance and the politics of gender and sexual difference within African societies, the social, political, and economic processes that have influenced gender and sexual identities, and the connections between gender, sexuality, inequality, and activism at local, national, continental, and global scales.



This seminar offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the history of African cities. It cuts across disciplinary boundaries of history, geography, anthropology, political and cultural sociology, literature and cultural studies, to explore the various trajectories of urbanization on the continent.



In this course we will explore in a critical manner the concept of poverty in Africa. The emphasis is on historicizing categories such as poverty and wealth, debt and charity and on the ways in which people in Africa have understood such categories. As such the course takes a longue durée approach spanning over a millennium of history, ending with contemporary understandings of poverty.



In seminar discussions, we will be covering key readings in African Philosophy, following how this field of research and academic debate has emerged, progressed and become more sub­differentiated in the 20th and early 21 st century. While the main task set here is to understand the essential readings of the debate about African philosophy as it has been led by academic African philosophers, in the second part of the semester, we will pick up in an interdisciplinary manner on open questions and fields for further research that have been identified. For instance, in addressing questions of how to approach (document, qualify, understand) traditions of oral and written philosophical discourse as part of long-standing regional (and trans-regional) intellectual histories, expressed in African languages, we involve knowledge in linguistics, history, anthropology and religion



This course is designed as a seminar on a historiography that does not yet exist. It asks what a history of contemporary or ‘neo-liberal’ Africa would look like. The ambition of the seminar is to consider how historians might engage with and profit from the work of anthropologists working on the frontier between African states and the institutions of global civil society. It does so by decentering the state from the macro-narrative of the continent’s recent history. It also strives to situate the African present in relation to broader historical currents at work across the globe in the contemporary period.



This course will be the first part of a two part introduction to theoretical approaches to modern social science and cultural studies in Asian and African contexts. The first course will focus primarily on methodological and theoretical problems in the fields broadly described as historical social sciences - which study historical trends, and political, economic and social institutions and processes. The course will start with discussions regarding the origins of the modern social sciences and the disputes about the nature of social science knowledge. In the next section it will focus on definitions and debates about the concept of modernity. It will go on to analyses of some fundamental concepts used in modern social and historical analyses: concepts of social action, political concepts like state, power, hegemony, democracy, nationalism; economic concepts like the economy, labor, market, capitalism, and related concepts of secularity/secularism, representation, and identity. The teaching will be primarily through close reading of set texts, followed by a discussion. A primary concern of the course will be to think about problems specific to the societies studied by scholars of Asia and Africa: how to use a conceptual language originally stemming from reflection on European modernity in thinking about societies which have quite different historical and cultural characteristics.