African Studies

Council on African Studies
The MacMillan Center
136 Rosenkranz Hall, 203.432.1425

Michael Cappello (Pediatrics; Microbial Pathogenesis; Public Health)

Director of Graduate Studies
David Simon (203.432.5243,

Director of Program in African Languages
Kiarie Wa’Njogu (203.432.0110,

Professors Serap Aksoy (Epidemiology), Lea Brilmayer (Law), Richard Bucala (Internal Medicine), John Darnell (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations), Owen Fiss (Law), Gerald Friedland (Internal Medicine; Epidemiology), Robert Harms (History), Ann Kurth (Nursing), Daniel Magaziner (History), Roderick McIntosh (Anthropology), Christopher Miller (French; African American Studies), Stephanie Newell (English), Catherine Panter-Brick (Anthropology), Curtis Patton (Emeritus, Epidemiology), David Post (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology), Asghar Rastegar (Internal Medicine), Lamin Sanneh (Divinity; History), Ian Shapiro (Political Science), Robert Thompson (Emeritus, History of Art), Michael Veal (Music), Sten Vermund (Epidemiology; Pediatrics), Immanuel Wallerstein (Emeritus, Sociology), David Watts (Anthropology), Elisabeth Wood (Political Science)

Associate Professors Theodore Cohen (Epidemiology), Kaveh Khoshnood (Epidemiology), Urania Magriples (Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences), Elijah Paintsil (Pediatrics; Epidemiology; Pharmacology), Sunil Parikh (Public Health; Internal Medicine), Jonathan Wyrtzen (Sociology)

Assistant Professors Katharine Baldwin (Political Science), Jill Jarvis (French), Louisa Lombard (Anthropology), Frank Minja (Radiology & Biomedical Imaging), Hani Mowafi (Emergency Medicine), Christine Ngaruiya (Emergency Medicine), Oluwatosin Onibokun (Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences), Doruk Ozgediz (Surgery; Pediatrics), Tracy Rabin (Internal Medicine), Jeremy Schwartz (Internal Medicine), Sheela Shenoi (Internal Medicine), Carla Staver (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology)

Lecturers Adalgisa Caccone (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology), Anne-Marie Foltz (Epidemiology & Public Health), W. Casey King (Public Health), Sarah Ryan (Law), David Simon (Political Science), Veronica Waweru (African Languages)

Senior Lectors II Oluseye Adesola (African Languages), Sandra Sanneh (African Languages), Kiarie Wa’Njogu (African Languages)

Senior Lector Matuku Ngame (French)

Fields of Study

African Studies considers the arts, history, cultures, languages, literatures, politics, religions, and societies of Africa as well as issues concerning development, health, and the environment. Considerable flexibility and choice of areas of concentration are offered because students entering the program may have differing academic backgrounds and career plans. Enrollment in the M.A. program in African Studies provides students with the opportunity to register for the many African studies courses offered in the various departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools. 

The Program in African Studies also offers two interdisciplinary seminars to create dialogue and to integrate approaches across disciplines. In addition to the M.A. degree program, the Council on African Studies offers students in the University’s doctoral and other professional degree programs the chance to obtain a Graduate Certificate of Concentration in African Studies by fulfilling a supplementary curriculum. (See Council on African Studies, under Non-Degree Granting Programs, Councils, and Research Institutes.) Joint degrees are possible with the approval of the director of graduate studies (DGS) and the relevant officials in the schools of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Law, Management, and Public Health.

The African collections of the Yale libraries together represent one of the largest holdings on Africa found in North America. The University now possesses more than 220,000 volumes including, but not limited to, government documents, art catalogues, photographs, manuscripts, correspondence, and theses, many published in Africa.

Special Admissions Requirement

The GRE General Test is required.

Special Requirements for the M.A. Degree

The Yale University Master of Arts degree program in African Studies was instituted in 1986. The two-year interdisciplinary, graduate-level curriculum is intended for students who will later continue in a Ph.D. program or a professional school, or for those who will enter business, government service, or another career in which a sound knowledge of Africa is essential or valuable. A student may choose one of the following areas of concentration: history; anthropology; political science; sociology; arts and literatures; languages and linguistics; religion; environmental and development studies; and public health.

The program requires sixteen courses: two compulsory introductory interdisciplinary seminars, Research Methods in African Studies (AFST 501) and Topics in African Studies (AFST 764) or an alternate course, as specifically designated by the DGS; four courses of instruction in an African language; four courses in one of the foregoing areas of concentration; four other approved courses offered in the Graduate School or professional schools; and two terms of directed reading and research (AFST 590 and AFST 900) during which students will complete the required thesis. A student who is able to demonstrate advanced proficiency in an African language may have the language requirement waived and substitute four other approved courses. The choice of courses must be approved by the DGS, with whom students should consult as soon as possible in the first term.

The Master’s Thesis

The master’s thesis is based on research on a topic approved by the DGS and advised by a faculty member with expertise or specialized competence in the chosen topic. Students must submit their thesis for joint evaluation by the adviser and a second reader, who is chosen by the student in consultation with the DGS.

Program in African Languages

The language program offers instruction in four major languages from sub-Saharan Africa: Kiswahili (eastern and central Africa), Wolof (west Africa), Yorùbá (west Africa), and isiZulu (southern Africa). Language-related courses and language courses for professionals are also offered. African language courses emphasize communicative competence, and instructors use multimedia materials that focus on the contemporary African context. Course sequences are designed to enable students to achieve advanced competence in all skill areas by the end of the third year, and the African Languages program encourages students to spend one summer or term in Africa during their language study.

Noncredited instruction in other African languages is available by application through the Directed Independent Language Study program at the Center for Language Study. Contact the director of the Program in African Languages.

More information is available on the program’s website,


AFST 505a, Gateway to AfricaVeronica Waweru and Michael Cappello

This multidisciplinary seminar highlights the study of contemporary Africa through diverse academic disciplines. Each session features a Yale faculty scholar or guest speaker who shares their unique disciplinary perspective and methodological approach to studying Africa. Topics include themes drawn from the humanities, social sciences, and public health, with faculty representing expertise from across Yale’s graduate and professional school departments. The course is intended to introduce graduate students and upper-level undergraduates to the breadth and depth of Yale scholarship on Africa, facilitating the identification of future topics and mentors for thesis or senior paper research. Each weekly seminar focuses on a specific topic or region, and students are exposed to various research methods and techniques in archival research, data collection, and analysis. A specific goal of the course is to impart students with knowledge of how research across diverse disciplines is carried out, as well as to demonstrate innovative methodology, fieldwork procedures, presentation of results, and ethical issues in human subjects research.
Th 3:30pm-5:20pm

AFST 510a, What Is the Global South? Africa in the WorldVivian Lu

This course explores how history, culture, and power shape our conceptualization of the world and its peoples. By critically examining how social categories—such as culture, religion, race, economy, and ideology—have been mapped onto different parts of the world, the course traces how legacies of colonialism and imperialism in Africa continue to inform contemporary perspectives of economic development, geopolitics, and globalization. Students consider the history of world categorizations through the perspectives of the people who mobilized to transform them, from anti-colonial fighters and postcolonial scholars to the Third World Solidarity movement and contemporary African activists and artists.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 567a / PLSC 798a, Bureaucracy in Africa: Revolution, Genocide, and ApartheidJonathan Steinberg

A study of three major episodes in modern African history characterized by ambitious projects of bureaucratically driven change—apartheid and its aftermath, Rwanda’s genocide and post-genocide reconstruction, and Ethiopia’s revolution and its long aftermath. Examination of Weber’s theory bureaucracy, Scott’s thesis on high modernism, Bierschenk’s attempts to place African states in global bureaucratic history. Overarching theme is the place of bureaucratic ambitions and capacities in shaping African trajectories.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 570b, History of U.S. Foreign Assistance to Sub-Saharan AfricaRussell Barbour

This course reviews the many years of U.S. development assistance to Africa using archival data from the Agency for International Development (USAID), nonprofit organizations, and specialized agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and nineteen U.S. government agencies involved in development assistance to Africa. Students analyze the effectiveness, perception, and shifting development paradigms of such assistance, looking at four specific areas: agriculture, water and sanitation, child survival, and refugee relief. Advanced text-mining analysis in the R package tm and web-scraping algorithms in Python are applied to both archival and current data to enhance analysis.
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

AFST 613b / LING 613b, Hybrid Grammars: Dynamics of Language Contact, Language Acquisition, and Language ChangeEnoch Aboh

Traditional approaches to language acquisition and change have typically assumed that children develop a mental grammar that replicates uniformly the linguistic knowledge of the current members of their monolingual speech communities. Therefore, language change must result from external factors: language contact involving a cohort of L2-learners. Likewise, multilingualism, thus language contact, is commonly assumed to hinder acquisition, and presupposed “intense” contact situations are regarded as propitious for creolization. This course proposes a shift of perspective, focusing on multiple-variety ecologies such as creole societies in which speakers-listeners can acquire, alternate between, and sometimes “mix” different languages, dialects, or registers. Two major questions are addressed: (1) How does acquisition proceed in such multiple-variety ecologies? (2) What does a theory of the multilingual mind tell us about acquisition of L1 and the emergence of grammars? The descriptive and theoretical framework adopted is that of hybrid grammars as developed in Aboh (2015). Prerequisite: familiarity with syntax and linguistic variation.
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

AFST 639a / ANTH 639a, Africa, Politics, AnthropologyLouisa Lombard

A historical-anthropological study of politics in Africa. How have anthropologists made sense of the workings of African politics, both those of state and nonstate actors? This course charts how African states came into being, how they operate, and how state agents and the people they govern negotiate legitimacy, authority, and belonging.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 680b, Nigeria and Its DiasporaOluseye Adesola

Nigerians in the modern diaspora, both those who endured forced migration and those who migrated voluntarily. Specific reference to the Igbos and the Yorùbás. The preservation and maintenance of Nigerian culture, history, dance, literature, traditional education, theater, politics, art, music, film, religion, and folklore, especially in African American and Nigerian American contexts.
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

AFST 681b / LING 681b, Comparative Syntax: A View from Kwa (Niger-Congo)Enoch Aboh

This course adopts a microcomparative perspective by looking at closely related languages (i.e., Gbe and Kwa families of Niger-Congo) as well as a macrocomparative perspective that situates these languages in the larger context of typologically and genetically unrelated languages (e.g., Romance, Germanic). We set the stage by first looking at word formation, word classes, and the role of tones at the morphosyntactic level. Building on this, the first part of the course discusses topics such as Tense, Mood, Aspect (TMA) expressions, word order variation (e.g., VO vs. OV patterns), serial verb constructions, restructuring, and the notion of “light verb.” These topics allow us to establish a profile of the clause structure in these languages. With this knowledge at hand, the second part of the course addresses the question of information structure and the commonly assumed parallelism between the CP and DP domains. The descriptive framework adopted is the cartographic approach developed by Rizzi (1997), Cinque (1999), Aboh (2004), and much related work. Prerequisite: some background in syntax.
TTh 4pm-5:15pm

AFST 715a / GLBL 715a, Economic and Trade Challenges and Opportunities in Southern AfricaHarry Thomas

How can the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) achieve sustainable economic development and integrate trade? In this course, we discuss structural and institutional challenges to sustainable economic development and trade and how SADC can overcome these obstacles. We examine SADC in comparative perspective. Students research the critical issues in SADC politics and governance that prevent improved economic output. This course also highlights the economic and trade successes SADC has experienced.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 800b / AFAM 805b / FILM 754b, Novel, Film, and History in French AfricaChristopher Miller

African history as represented in historiography, novels, and films. Limited to French and Francophone Africa. Themes include empire and epic; orality and literacy; the slave trade; contact, conquest, and resistance; the Congo Free State; the role of colonial intermediaries; the two world wars; decolonization and neocolonialism; and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 832a / HIST 832a, Methods and Practices in African HistoryDaniel Magaziner

This course provides a survey of African historical methods, considering topics from the use of historical linguistics and oral tradition to creative archival and narrative methodologies. We read monographs and other scholarly works, including classics in the discipline and new methodologically innovative studies. Students produce a substantive historiographical essay as well as a detailed analysis of a primary source of their choosing.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 839a / HIST 839a, Environmental History of AfricaRobert Harms

An examination of the interaction between people and their environment in Africa and the ways in which this interaction has affected or shaped the course of African history.
W 9:25am-11:15am

AFST 840b, Colonialism in AfricaRobert Harms

Discussion of the theory and practices of colonialism in Africa. Topics include the motives for European expansion, the scramble for Africa, early colonialism, direct and indirect rule, "colonization of the mind," the colonial state, the developmental state, late colonialism, and paths to decolonization.
W 9:25am-11:15am

AFST 951a or b, Directed Reading and ResearchStaff

By arrangement with faculty.

AFST 969a / CPLT 985a / FREN 969a, Islands, Oceans, DesertsJill Jarvis

This seminar brings together literary and theoretical works that chart planetary relations and connections beyond the paradigm of francophonie. Comparative focus on the poetics and politics of spaces shaped by intersecting routes of colonization and forced migrations: islands (Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Martinique), oceans (Indian, Mediterranean, Atlantic), and deserts (Sahara, Sonoran). Prerequisite: reading knowledge of French; knowledge of Arabic and Spanish invited. Conducted in English.
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

SWAH 610a, Beginning Kiswahili IKiarie Wa'Njogu

A beginning course with intensive training and practice in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Initial emphasis is on the spoken language and conversation. Credit only on completion of SWAH 620.
MTWThF 9:25am-10:15am

SWAH 620b, Beginning Kiswahili IIKiarie Wa'Njogu

Continuation of SWAH 610. Texts provide an introduction to the basic structure of Kiswahili and to the culture of the speakers of the language. Prerequisite: SWAH 610.
MTWThF 9:25am-10:15am

SWAH 630a, Intermediate Kiswahili IVeronica Waweru

Further development of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Prepares students for further work in literary, language, and cultural studies as well as for a functional use of Kiswahili. Study of structure and vocabulary is based on a variety of texts from traditional and popular culture. Emphasis on command of idiomatic usage and stylistic nuance. Prerequisite: SWAH 620.
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

SWAH 640b, Intermediate Kiswahili IIVeronica Waweru

Continuation of SWAH 630.
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

SWAH 650a, Advanced Kiswahili IKiarie Wa'Njogu

Development of fluency through readings and discussions on contemporary issues in Kiswahili. Introduction to literary criticism in Kiswahili. Materials include Kiswahili oral literature, prose, poetry, and plays, as well as texts drawn from popular and political culture. Prerequisite: SWAH 640.
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

SWAH 660b, Advanced Kiswahili IIKiarie Wa'Njogu

Continuation of SWAH 650.
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

SWAH 670b, Topics in Kiswahili LiteratureKiarie Wa'Njogu

Advanced readings and discussion with emphasis on literary and historical texts. Reading assignments include materials on Kiswahili prose, plays, poetry, Kiswahili dialects, and the history of the language.
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

YORU 610a, Beginning Yorùbá IOluseye Adesola

Training and practice in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Initial emphasis is on the spoken aspect, with special attention to unfamiliar consonantal sounds, nasal vowels, and tone, using isolated phrases, set conversational pieces, and simple dialogues. Multimedia materials provide audio practice and cultural information. Credit only on completion of YORU 620.
MTWThF 10:30am-11:20am

YORU 620b, Beginning Yorùbá IIOluseye Adesola

Continuing practice in using and recognizing tone through dialogues. More emphasis is placed on simple cultural texts and role playing. Prerequisite: YORU 610.
MTWThF 10:30am-11:20am

YORU 630a, Intermediate Yorùbá IOluseye Adesola

Refinement of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. More natural texts are provided to prepare students for work in literary, language, and cultural studies as well as for a functional use of Yorùbá. Prerequisite: YORU 620.
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

YORU 640b, Intermediate Yorùbá IIOluseye Adesola

Students are exposed to more idiomatic use of the language in a variety of interactions, including occupational, social, religious, and educational. Cultural documents include literary and nonliterary texts. Prerequisite: YORU 630.
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

YORU 650a, Advanced Yorùbá IOluseye Adesola

An advanced course intended to improve aural and reading comprehension as well as speaking and writing skills. Emphasis is on acquiring a command of idiomatic usage and stylistic nuance. Study materials include literary and nonliterary texts; social, political, and popular entertainment media such as video movies and recorded poems (ewì); and music. Prerequisite: YORU 640.
MW 1pm-2:15pm

YORU 660b, Advanced Yorùbá IIOluseye Adesola

Continuing development of aural and reading comprehension, and speaking and writing skills, with emphasis on idiomatic usage and stylistic nuance. Study materials are selected to reflect research interests of the students. Prerequisite: YORU 650.
MW 1pm-2:15pm

YORU 670a or b, Topics in Yorùbá Literature and CultureOluseye Adesola

The course provides students with the opportunity to acquire Yorùbá up to the superior level. It is designed to give an in-depth discussion on advanced readings on Yorùbá literature and culture. It focuses on Yorùbá history, poetry, novels, dramas, and oral folklore. It also seeks to uncover the basics of the Yorùbá culture in communities where Yorùbá is spoken across the globe, with particular emphasis on Nigeria. It examines movies, texts, and written literature to gain insight into the Yorùbá philosophy and ways of life.

YORU 680a, Advanced Topics in Yorùbá Literature and CultureOluseye Adesola

A course for students with advanced proficiency in Yorùbá who are interested in discussion and research in Yorùbá at a level not covered by existing courses. A term paper or its equivalent is required.
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

ZULU 610a, Beginning isiZulu ISandra Sanneh

A beginning course in conversational isiZulu, using Web-based materials filmed in South Africa. Emphasis on the sounds of the language, including clicks and tonal variation, and on the words and structures needed for initial social interaction. Brief dialogues concern everyday activities; aspects of contemporary Zulu culture are introduced through readings and documentaries in English. Credit only on completion of ZULU 620.
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

ZULU 620b, Beginning isiZulu IISandra Sanneh

Development of communication skills through dialogues and role play. Texts and songs are drawn from traditional and popular literature and songs. Students research daily life in selected areas of South Africa. Prerequisite: ZULU 610.
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

ZULU 630a, Intermediate isiZulu ISandra Sanneh

Development of basic fluency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing isiZulu, using Web-based materials filmed in South Africa. Students describe and narrate spoken and written paragraphs. Review of morphology; concentration on tense and aspect. Materials are drawn from contemporary popular culture, folklore, and mass media. Prerequisite: ZULU 620.
MTWThF 9:25am-10:15am

ZULU 640b, Intermediate isiZulu IISandra Sanneh

Students read longer texts from popular media as well as myths and folktales. Students are prepared for initial research involving interaction with speakers of isiZulu in South Africa, and for the study of oral and literary genres. Prerequisite: ZULU 630.
MTWThF 9:25am-10:15am

ZULU 650a, Advanced isiZulu ISandra Sanneh

Development of fluency in using idioms, speaking about abstract concepts, and voicing preferences and opinions. Excerpts are drawn from oral genres, short stories, and dramas made for television. Introduction to other South African languages and to issues of standardization, dialect, and language attitude. Prerequisite: ZULU 640.
MTh 4pm-5:15pm

ZULU 660b, Advanced isiZulu IISandra Sanneh

Readings may include short stories, a novel, praise poetry, historical texts, or contemporary political speeches, depending on student interests. Study of issues of language policy and use in contemporary South Africa; introduction to the Soweto dialect of isiZulu. Students are prepared for extended research in South Africa involving interviews with isiZulu speakers. Prerequisite: ZULU 650.
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm