Not available in 2022/23
AN477      Half Unit
Topics in the Anthropology of sub-Saharan Africa

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Stephanie Postar


This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management and MSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


It is preferred that students will normally have done preliminary courses in Anthropology or have a Social Science background, but there is some flexibility. Students should consult the course lecturer.

Course content

This course gives students a critical understanding of ethnographic and theoretical writing on sub-Saharan Africa. Grounded in some classic debates around tradition and modernity (kinship-based polities vs states; studies on occult knowledge vs rationally-oriented political economy approaches; ‘objective’ class vs forms of identification such as tribe or race), it explores questions about how the sub-continent’s societies orient themselves, and respond to new precarities, in a postcolonial and neoliberal age. How are changing urban realities experienced and expressed in popular culture? How are the politics of land and belonging being reshaped? Do youth have a future of work in post-industrial Africa - and what new gender identities are they developing? Are there specifically African forms of knowledge? What is postcolonial about the ‘postcolony’? Is Europe ‘evolving towards Africa’, as has been maintained? The course also thinks through the role of fiction, non-ethnographic writing and non-academic voices in shaping anthropology on the sub-continent.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual lectures, classes and online interactive activities. The contact hours listed above are the minimum expected. This course has a reading week in Week 6 of LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Students will be asked to write one formative review during termtime, to be discussed with and evaluated by the course lecturer. The formative review will allow for students’ individuality and expression and allow them to bring their own interest in current debates into interplay with course materials.

Indicative reading

Adebanwi, Wale. 2017. The Political Economy of Everyday Life in Africa: Beyond the Margins. Oxford: James Currey.

Comaroff, J and JL. 2012. Theory from the South or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa Anthropological Forum 22 (2).

Englund, Harri. 2006. Prisoners of Freedom. Human Rights and the African Poor. Berkeley: UC Press.

Geschiere, Peter. 2013. Witchcraft, Intimacy and Trust: Africa in comparison. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Guyer, Jane. 2014. Marginal Gains: monetary transactions in Atlantic Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mbembe, A. 2001. On the Postcolony. Berkeley, University of California Press.

Moore, H. L. 2013. Still life: hopes, desires and satisfactions. London, John Wiley & Sons.

Piot, Charles 1999. Remotely Global: village modernity in West Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press


Take-home assessment (100%) in the LT.

The take home exam will be held the week following the end of the LT.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2021/22: 3

Average class size 2021/22: 4

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication