AFST 250A – Introduction to African Studies

Offered Term 1 and Term 2
Instructor: Dr. Kofi J.S. Gbolonyo

(Major cultural, historical, political, 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.
Through synchronous and asynchronous online lectures, presentations and interactive discussions, the course provides an ethnographic and ethnological survey of Sub-Saharan African peoples and culture. 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. The general focus is on relations between humans and environment, between cultures, and within societies. Students in all majors should find topics of interest. Background in social sciences, especially anthropology, is highly recommended.

Please NOTE:
In term 1, this course will be taught entirely online using interactive software via UBC Collaborative Ultra on Canva. Participation in synchronous (real-time as indicated on SSC) online classes is required. In addition, students will be able to watch recordings and participate asynchronously.
At the beginning of each week, pre-recorded asynchronous lectures (approximately 40-60min long) will be uploaded on Canvas. The lectures will cover key issues and will introduce key concepts and ideas under the topics assigned for the week. Students will be required to watch the recorded asynchronous lectures prior to the scheduled synchronous meetings of the week. The recorded lectures will be supplemented by two (60 minute) synchronous discussion sessions per week that will include discussions and activities relating to the week’s topics. One of the two sessions may be moderated by our TA. Participation in both synchronous sessions, which will be hosted during scheduled class hours, is mandatory.


AFST 351A  – Perspectives in African Studies: Literary and Theoretical Approaches

Offered Term 1
Instructor: Deena Dinat

(Africa and the 21st Century Global Imaginary)

At the beginning of the 21st century, narratives around Africa’s place in the world are largely pre-determined. Stories of exploitation, poverty, health crises and civil war are all too familiar, or are supplemented by ‘inspirational’ tales of development, democracy, and burgeoning trade. Yet both sets of stories tend to ignore the lived reality of Africa, the very thing they attempt to describe, and its place in the world. What does it mean to be “African?” What counts as “African” writing and art? How does “Africa” imagine the world, and how has the world imagined Africa? This course re-examines the complex, interconnected, and generative meanings that are carried by the term Africa and its contemporary and global effects. To study African literature, we will discover, is to encounter specific political, ethical, and cultural relationships to the world – relationships not easily defined by geographic, ethnic and linguistic boundaries.

We will explore how Africa – demographically the world’s “youngest” continent of 54 countries and over a billion people – has been defined by the global imagination for centuries, but also how it has always generated its own forms of knowledge that have profoundly shaped the world as we know it. Together we will read critical theory on race, gender, cosmopolitanism, and diaspora in our encounters with 21st century literature, film, photography and popular culture that emanates from, or reflects on, the continent. We will work through these diverse readings to complicate ideas of African subjectivity, knowledge, and history. From 16th century Morocco to the tech-utopia of Wakanda, from the neocolonialism of Drake’s Afro-Caribbean mixtapes to the queer gaze of the controversial film Inxeba, we’ll consider how “Africa” provides a lens for engaging the most pressing questions of today, and revolutionary blueprints for the future.

*Please note that this course will be taught entirely online. Each week will ask you to watch a recorded asynchronous lecture (approximately 45-60 mins) that will introduce key concepts and ideas. These lectures will be supplemented by two (60 minute) synchronous discussion sessions per week that will include discussions and activities.

If you sign up for this course please ensure that you are able to attend those synchronous sessions, which will be hosted during scheduled class hours.


AFST 352A – Perspectives in African Studies: A Social Science Approach

Offered Term 2
Instructor: Dr. Kofi J.S. Gbolonyo 

This course examines the histories and politics of “Modern Africa,” itself a problematic idea, from 1800 to the present. From a critical social science perspective 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; violent nationalisms, independence and colonial legacies; postcolonial conflict, health and healing, the crisis of the state and global economic policies. While taking a comprehensive approach, particular attention will be paid to case studies drawn from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Angola and South Africa. History 315, Britain, 1750-1850.

Through lectures, presentations and interactive discussions This course (seminar) will provide students with information on the historical, political, economic, and cultural processes shaping the everyday lives of peoples in sub-Saharan Africa. In examining the interdisciplinary social science literature on sub-Saharan Africa, especially case studies by contemporary anthropologists and historians, students will be able to appreciate Africa’s place in the world, and some of its problems and challenges. Students will also gain a sense of the despair and optimism that the people of Africa share about the continent’s future. Through discussions of the assigned readings, documentaries, films and presentations, students will explore the analytical links between debatable topics such as impact of diseases and other life-threatening health problems, gender, ethnic relations and pop culture in contemporary African communities and the wider historical and political contexts in which they are embedded, namely, colonialism and its legacy, racism, globalization and neoliberalism.

AFST 370 – Literatures and Cultures of Africa
Offered Term 2
Instructor: Dr. Suzanne James

Women Who Refuse to Keep Quiet: Fiction by African Women
“The woman writer in Africa is a witness, forgiving the evidence of the eyes,
pronouncing her experience with insight, artistry, and a fertile dexterity.” (Yvonne Vera)

Writing by African women may be a relatively recent development, but as Ama Ata Aidoo reminds us, “African women struggling both on behalf of themselves and on behalf of the wider community is very much a part of . . . [African] heritage. . . . So when we say that we are refusing to be overlooked we are only acting as daughters and grand-daughters of women who always refused to keep quiet.” The readings we will explore in this course, drawn from a range of countries, are entertaining, disturbing and disruptive, challenging the status quo, and engaging with both the socio-political impact of colonization and challenges facing post-colonial African societies. Texts will include Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood, Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter, Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names and Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater.

Please note: This course is cross-listed with ENGL 370. Both courses are identical and can be used as credit towards a Minor in African Studies.


AFST 450R – African diasporic culture in Canadian society, fostering dialogue with members of African Canadian communities on cultural values, traditions, memory, adaptation and change

Not offered Winter 2020.