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Semester 1

Anthropology and Africa (SCAN10088)


Social Anthropology





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Visiting students must have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses.

Course Summary

A course on major themes in the anthropology of Africa based on ethnographic and theoretical readings from across the continent. Readings are set in context of thematic topics such as colonialism, postcolonialism and decolonial inquiry, narrative practice, indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, witchcraft, medicine, gender, and multispecies environments, aiming toward a broad survey of key issues in historical and contemporary African anthropology.

Course Description

This course asks what a specifically anthropological viewpoint, based on close ethnographic research, contributes to our understanding of a multitude of cultures, values, worldviews, faiths, customs and societies across the African continent. Africa has frequently existed in the imagination of the West through images of war, disease and poverty, and treated both as a homogenous undifferentiated entity and a victim of outside circumstances from slavery to colonialism to international debt and structural adjustment. In this course, we ask how these historical approaches to anthropology can be transcended without decentring the variety of African social forms, knowledge systems, or the ways in which people actively work to create meaningful, viable lives. Howan ethnography be mobilised to bring to life the 'everyday-ness' of life in Africa, from the full spectrum of successes and challenges that we engage with any other society? How has this problem-orientated approach with its roots in colonial agendas shaped the anthropological gaze, and worked to undermine local systems of knowledge? Is it possible for there to be a decolonial practice of anthropology in African contexts? How do the people living on the continent reflect on their position in the global economy? What of daily lives how do people navigate questions of good and evil, sickness and health, sex and love, and the changing environment? The course uses ethnographic and theoretical work from across the African continent and beyond to reflect on a series of key topics that shape the social and political lives of people in Africa. Choice of regional readings will follow the expertise of the lecturers, and students will have the opportunity to focus on certain areas in their assessed work. Each week contextualises the African material in terms of its global relevance with the ultimate aim of developing a nuanced picture of how real people deal with major issues that have shaped African history. Main topics will vary from year to year. Examples include: colonialism, postcolonialism and decolonisation, narrative practice, indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, witchcraft, medicine, gender, and multispecies environments. The course involves a one-hour recorded lecture, and an hour long seminar per week for the whole class, together with tutorials in separate one-hour sessions. In the seminar, most weeks will involve discussion and group work. The tutorials will normally be concerned with one or more readings that illustrate, underpin or extend issues raised in the main sessions. Students should note that participation in the seminar and tutorials is compulsory and attendance will be recorded.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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