African Studies Minor

Requirements for the Minor in African Studies

A total of 12 credit hours of lower level courses, and 18 credit hours of upper level courses are required to complete the requirements for the minor. Recommended lower level and upper level course offerings may change from year to year. Consult the course calendar for each year’s course offerings.

Lower level courses that may be counted toward the requirements should have some African content. Students are strongly encouraged to take lower level courses such as AFST 250A, AFST 250B, HIST 256, which have a substantial theoretical or thematic African content.

Upper level courses that may be counted toward the requirements should be those with substantial African content (see list of approved upper level courses). It is mandatory to complete AFST 351 or AFST 352 as one of the upper level courses. These courses can be taken at any point during the minor. Students may tailor their courses according to their interest, in consultation with the Chair of the African Studies Minor program. It is recommended that students take AFST 250A or AFST 250B early in their course work to plan for the minor. Additionally, up to 12 credit hours from study abroad such as the McGill Canadian Field Studies in Africa may be counted toward the minor.

First & Second Year

African Studies 250A – Introduction to African Studies

Major cultural, historical and geographical issues of African Studies.

AFST 250 is an introductory course designed to provide students with background information and critical approaches that will enable them to participate in academic discussions and take more advanced courses in the field of African Studies. It will emphasize critical thinking and seek to foster an awareness of the conceptual challenges involved in our attempts to understand the complexities of African Studies.

AFST 250A is a prerequisite for most senior courses in African Studies. The course has two sections. NOTE THAT INSTRUCTORS MAY WAIVE THIS PREREQUISITE

AFST 250A 001 is offered in Term 1.

AFST 250A: Introduction to African Studies (Course is offered once every year)
Instructor: Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo

Course Description: This course gives a broad overview of cultural, historical, and geographical issues of African Studies. It provides an ethnographic and ethnological survey of Sub-Saharan African peoples and cultures. The general focus is on relations between humans and environment, between cultures, and within societies in Africa. It highlights the change and the resistance to change in the period since the Berlin Conference of 1885, which redrew the map of Africa to serve the needs of European nations, but it also gives an in-depth look at ‘traditional’ Africa. The effect of the colonial period upon socio-cultural development is examined through a variety of literature and field notes. Students in all majors should find topics of interest. Background in social sciences is desirable but not required.

AFST 250A 002 is offered in Term 2.

AFST 250A – 002: Introduction to African Studies: Africa through Its Writing
Instructor: Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo

Course Description: This particular section of AFST 250 will approach Africa primarily through the study of writing (non-fiction, fiction and poetry) by, and about, Africans.

First and Second Year Courses recommended for African Studies Minors

(Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and does not include all the courses that the advisor might count for the Minor, depending on your interests and variable course content; courses offered change year to year and some of these courses have pre-requisites. Please contact African Studies Chair Rose-Marie Dechaine ( for more details or advice.

AGSC 100 (1)*Introduction to Land, Food and Community
AFSC 250 (6)* Land, Food and Community
ANTH 100 (3) Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 200 (3) Introduction to Problems in Method and Theory in Anthropology
ANTH 202 (/6) Contemporary Social Problems
ECON 101 (3) Principles of Microeconomics
ECON 102 (3) Principles of Macroeconomics
ECON 234 (3) Wealth and Poverty of Nations
ECON 255 (3) Understanding Globalization
ENGL 224 002 World Literature in English
GEOG 121 (3) Geography, Modernity, and Globalization 1
GEOG 122 (3) Geography, Modernity, and Globalization 2
HIST 103 (6) World History since 1900
HIST 105 (3) Contemporary Issues in Historical Perspective
HIST 256 (3) History of Africa
IHHS 200 (3)* Understanding the Sociocultural Determinants of the Health of Populations
LING 101 (3) Languages of the World
MUSC 165D African Music and Dance Ensemble

Senior Courses


The availability of courses listed may vary year to year.

African Languages & Linguistics (LING 447E 005)
Instructor: Douglas Pulleyblank (

This course will survey African languages, paying particular attention to their genetic classification, their word structure (morphology) and their sound structure (phonology). The African continent exhibits tremendous linguistic diversity, with upwards of 2000 different languages belonging to several completely unrelated language families. A single country like Nigeria, for example, has more than 500 languages belonging to three distinct families. The goal of this course will not be to study any particular language, but to become familiar with a sample of the kinds of patterns typical of African languages. There is no pre-requisite for this course. Students are welcome with or without a linguistic background. All students will be required to conduct a project on some African language during the course, and this project will be tailored to the background of the individual student.

This course can be counted towards the African Studies Minor in the Faculty of Arts.

Course details: LING 447E.005, 2015 Winter, term 1, Tue & Thu 1100-1230

***Please note that there is more than one section of LING 447, each section with a different topic; you must register for the specific section indicated above.***

AFST 351 (3/6) Perspectives in African Studies: Literary and Theoretical Approaches. Recent trends and problems in African thought (not offered 2014W)
Instructor: Suzanne James
Co-requisite: AFST 250 (or permission of instructor)

This course will offer students the opportunity to explore a number of concepts, controversies and discussions related to the definition of African thought, the way that African thought has been conceived and practiced historically and its role in the conceptualization of 21st Century African societies. In addition to reviewing the history and major problems of this field, students will choose a specific area to examine more closely from among:

1. universalism and relativism;
2. ethno-philosophy and Sage philosophy;
3. critical gender analyses;
4. hermeneutics;
5. Marxism and socialism;

These studies will be supported by readings from such authors as Mbiti, Wirendu, Mudimbe, Houtondji, Okere, Serequeberhan, Nkrumah, Cheikh Anta Diop and Amadiume.

AFST 352 (3/6) Perspectives in African Studies: A Social Science Approach (term 2)
crosslisted with HIST 313
History 313, Africa from Imperialism to Independence (3 credits)

Instructor: Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo

This course examines the histories of “Modern Africa,” itself a problematic idea, from 1800 to the present. We will explore themes of African societies and statecraft in the 19th century; colonial conquest, collaboration and resistance; the nature of the colonial state; cultures of gender, ethnicity and work under colonial rule; violent nationalisms, independence and colonial legacies; postcolonial conflict and the crisis of the state. While taking a comprehensive approach, particular attention will be paid to case studies drawn from Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Congo, Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa. History 315, Britain, 1750-1850

HIST309A Topics in Sub-Sarahan African History

Instructor: TBA

For the 2013-14 calendar year, “Topics in Sub-Saharan African History” will focus on the topic of African Cinema and History. African cinema represents a dynamic, varied and evolving part of world cinema that reflects the continuing and changing traditions of storytelling in Africa. Much of this cinematic tradition is intensely preoccupied with history, self-consciously taking up the role of griot – of traditional oral storyteller – and using an often didactic or reconstructive approach to the representation of historical narratives and visual culture outside of colonial images. Film itself represents an increasingly important source for historians, as intrinsically historical documents as well as cultural and industrial products that help bring academic historiography and public history. This course will provide students with an opportunity explore various aspects of African history through the lens of film, prompting students to think about the ways in which these representations structure historical imagination and popular understandings of history. Inextricably linked to the postcolonial condition, cinema in Africa represents an important technology by which Africans compose, edit and consolidate their pasts and has become a dominant form for thinking about pressing social and political concerns in contemporary Africa.

Topics for this course change every year.

AFST 450R African Diasporic Culture in African Canadian Communities (New Course)


This course combines the study of historical evidence of the presence of African diasporic culture in Canadian society, reflection on the notion African diaspora and on various ways in which that notion has been viewed by political and cultural theorists, and the fostering of dialogue with members of African Canadian communities on cultural values, traditions, memory, adaptation and change. Students are encouraged not only to apply their classroom-based learning to their dialogue with members of African Canadian communities but also to challenge theoretical models and preconceived notions through the experience of discussing those models and notions with individuals, families and groups.

MUSC 428E Area Studies in Ethnic Music – Music in Africa
Instructor: Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo

Offered once every year: Open to Upper Level Undergraduate and Graduates (both Non-Music and Music Majors).

This course examines the historical, social, and cultural background of music in Africa with particular reference to the social context of music, music in Islamic culture, kinship music, music in ritual and theater, music and dance, musical instruments and ensemble practice, stylistic elements of traditional music, music in church, popular music, and neo-African art music. The course aims to promote an understanding and appreciation of the philosophical, historical, and artistic processes and developments that have shaped and continue to influence traditional, popular, and contemporary African music and dance productions. The class will be taught through a combination of lectures, discussions, audiovisual materials, and hands-on practical activities and experiences as well as occasional live demonstrations by performers of African music.

Available Courses

AFST 351 (3/6) Perspectives in African Studies: Literary and Theoretical Approaches (term 2) Recent trends and problems in African thought
AFST 352 (3/6) Perspectives in African Studies: A Social Science Approach (term 2)
ANTH 308 (3/6) Ethnography of Sub-Saharan Africa
ANTH 403 (3/6) Ethnography of Special Areas
ENGL 478A (3) Post Colonial Studies (Post Apartheid South African Writing)
NEST 303 (3) History of Ancient Egypt
POLI 464C (3) Problems in International Relations, Political Institutions and Economic Growth