Courses

Spring 2022

Art, Apartheid, and South Africa
Apartheid, the political doctrine of separation of races in South Africa (1948-1990), dominated the (South) African political discourse in the second half of the 20th century. While it lasted, art and visual cultures were marshaled in the defense and contestation of its ideologies. Since the end of Apartheid, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, and scholars continue to reexamine the legacies of Apartheid and the social, philosophical, and political conditions of non-racialized South Africa. Course readings examine issues of race, nationalism and politics, art and visual culture, and social memory in South Africa.
Instructors: Chika O. Okeke-Agulu
Colonial and Postcolonial Africa
This course is an examination of the major political and economic trends in twentieth-century African history. It offers an interpretation of modern African history and the sources of its present predicament. In particular, we study the foundations of the colonial state, the legacy of the late colonial state (the period before independence), the rise and problems of resistance and nationalism, the immediate challenges of the independent states (such as bureaucracy and democracy), the more recent crises (such as debt and civil wars) on the continent, and the latest attempts to address these challenges from within the continent.
Instructors: Jacob S. Dlamini
Egypt in the Pyramid Age
Around 3000 BCE, the first state in history was formed in the northeastern part of Africa, from the Delta to the first cataract of the Nile. With it came the invention of writing, new ideologies, and monumental forms of art and architecture. In this course we will consider ancient Egyptian material, visual, and textual culture from this early phase (c. 3500-2150 BCE). With a focus on recent fieldwork done across the country, we will consider how the state was formed, the challenges it faced, the way members of the community variously functioned within it, and how it adapted and eventually disintegrated after a long period of stability.
Instructors: Deborah Vischak
Human Evolution
Humans have a deep history, one that informs our contemporary reality. Understanding our evolutionary history is understanding both what we have in common with other primates and other hominins, and what happened over the last 7 to 10 million years since our divergence from the other African ape lineages. More specifically, the story of the human is centered in what happened the ~2.5 million year history of our own genus (Homo). This class outlines the history of our lineage and offers an anthropological and evolutionary explanation for what this all means for humans today, and why we should care.
Instructors: Agustin Fuentes
Introduction to African Art
An introduction to African art and architecture from prehistory to the 20th century. Beginning with Paleolithic rock art of northern and southern Africa, we will cover ancient Nubia and Meroe; Neolithic cultures such as Nok, Djenne and Ife; African kingdoms, including Benin, Asante, Bamun, Kongo, Kuba, Great Zimbabwe, and the Zulu; Christian Ethiopia and the Islamic Swahili coast; and other societies, such as the Sherbro, Igbo, and the Maasai. By combining Africa's cultural history and developments in artistic forms we establish a long historical view of the stunning diversity of the continent's indigenous arts and architecture.
Instructors: Chika O. Okeke-Agulu
Picturing Africa. Multicultural Visions for a Global Youth
This interdisciplinary course looks at representations of North and sub-Saharan Africa in modern popular culture aimed (supposedly) at a younger audience. Through literature, graphic novels, films, advertising and digital media, we will see how artistic and more practical goals coexist with didactic intentions. This will lead us to address critical contemporary issues in Africa, such as education, multiculturalism, gender equality, politics, ecology, etc. We'll see how these productions by Europeans, Europeans of African descent, and Africans, do not only perpetuate and transmit stereotypes, but also convey progressive visions.
Instructors: André Benhaïm
The Mother and Father Continent: A Global History of Africa
Africa is both the Mother and Father Continent: it gave birth to Humankind (as a biological species) and our African ancestors created Human history, Culture, and Civilization. Human and Global History developed literally for hundreds of thousands of years in Africa before it spread worldwide. The depth of Africa's history explains the continent's enormous diversity in terms of, for example, genetics and biodiversity and languages and cultures. Moreover, as the course demonstrates, Africa and its societies were never isolated from the rest of the world. Rather, the continent and its peoples remain very much at the center of global history.
Instructors: Emmanuel H. P. M. Kreike