African Studies

Director of undergraduate studies: Daniel Magaziner, 2685 HGS, 432-6110,; director of the program in African Languages: Kiarie Wa'Njogu, 309B LUCE, 432-0110,;

The program in African Studies enables students to undertake interdisciplinary study of the arts, history, cultures, politics, and development of Africa. As a foundation, students in the program gain a cross-disciplinary exposure to Africa. In the junior and senior years, students develop analytical ability and focus their studies on research in a particular discipline such as anthropology, art history, history, languages and literatures, political science, or sociology or on topics such as global health, economic development, or human rights.

African Studies provides training of special interest to those considering admission to graduate or professional schools or careers in education, journalism, law, management, medicine, politics, psychology, international relations, creative writing, or social work. The interdisciplinary structure of the program offers students an opportunity to satisfy the increasingly rigorous expectations of admissions committees and prospective employers for a broad liberal arts perspective that complements specialized knowledge of a field.

Requirements of the Major

The major for the Class of 2018 With DUS approval, the following changes to the requirements of the major may be fulfilled by students who declared their major under previous requirements.

The major for the Class of 2019 and subsequent classes The program in African Studies consists of thirteen term courses, including (1) one African Studies course in the humanities and one in the social sciences; (2) two years of an African language (Arabic, Kiswahili, Yorùbá, isiZulu, or others with permission of the director of undergraduate studies), unless waived by examination; (3) AFST 401, the junior seminar on research methods, or an alternative course that either serves to deepen the concentration or provide methodological tools for the senior essay; and (4) a concentration of four term courses and one research methods seminar, selected in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies, in a discipline such as anthropology, art history, history, languages and literatures, political science, or sociology, or in an interdisciplinary program such as African American Studies; Ethnicity, Race, and Migration; or Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; or in a cross-disciplinary area such as diaspora studies or development studies. The required courses represent the core of the program and are intended to expose the student both to the interdisciplinary nature of African studies and to the methodologies currently being brought to bear on the study of African cultures and societies. 

Language requirement African Studies majors are required to complete two years of college-level study (or the equivalent) of an African language, and they are encouraged to continue beyond this level. For the language requirement to be waived, a student must pass a placement test for admission into an advanced-level course or, for languages not regularly offered at Yale, an equivalent test of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills administered through the Center for Language Study. Students should begin their language study as early as possible. If the requirement is waived, students must substitute other African Studies courses for the four required language courses.

With permission of the director of undergraduate studies, students may count courses in an additional language, such as French or Portuguese, toward the major requirements. Students are encouraged to include upper-level courses, especially those centering on research and methodology.

Program in African Languages The language program offers instruction in four major languages from sub-Saharan Africa: Kiswahili (eastern and central Africa), Yorùbá (western Africa), Wolof (western Africa) and isiZulu (southern Africa). African language courses emphasize communicative competence, using 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 students are encouraged to spend a summer or term in Africa during their language study.

Courses in Arabic are offered through the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Noncredit 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 for information.

Senior Requirement 

Students are required to complete a senior essay in AFST 491, working under the guidance of a faculty adviser. With prior approval by the director of undergraduate studies, a combined senior essay may be submitted for those pursuing a double major.

A preliminary statement indicating the topic to be addressed and the name of the faculty adviser must be submitted to the director of undergraduate studies by the end of the second week of the fall term in the senior year. 

Advising and Application to the Major

Students planning to major in African Studies should consult the director of undergraduate studies as early as possible.

Graduate work, M.A. program Students in Yale College are eligible to complete the M.A. in African Studies in one year of graduate work if they begin the program in the third and fourth undergraduate years. Students interested in this option must complete eight graduate courses in the area by the time of the completion of the bachelor’s degree. Only two courses may be counted toward both graduate and undergraduate degrees. Successful completion of graduate courses while still an undergraduate does not guarantee admission into the M.A. program.


Prerequisites None

Number of courses 13 term courses (incl senior req)

Distribution of courses 1 AFST course in humanities and 1 in social sciences; 2 years of African lang; 4 courses and 1 research methods seminar in area of concentration

Specific course requiredAFST 401, or an alternative arranged in consultation with the DUS

Senior requirement Senior essay (AFST 491)

Substitution permitted If language req is waived, 4 addtl African Studies courses


Professors Lea Brilmayer (Law School), John Darnell (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations), Owen Fiss (Law School), Robert Harms (History), Andrew Hill (Anthropology), Roderick McIntosh (Anthropology), Christopher Miller (African American Studies, French), Nicoli Nattrass (Ethics, Politics, & Economics) (Visiting), Catherine Panter-Brick (Anthropology), Lamin Sanneh (History, Divinity School), Jeremy Seekings (Global Affairs) (Visiting), Ian Shapiro (Political Science), Robert Thompson (History of Art), Christopher Udry (Economics), Michael Veal (Music), David Watts (Anthropology), Elisabeth Wood (Political Science)

Associate Professors Robert Bailis (Forestry & Environmental Studies), Daniel Magaziner (History)

Assistant Professors Katharine Baldwin (Political Science), Adria Lawrence (Political Science), Louisa Lombard (Anthropology), Jonathan Wyrtzen (Sociology)

Senior Lecturer Cheryl Doss (Economics)

Lecturers Lacina Coulibaly (Theater Studies), Anne-Marie Foltz (Public Health), David Simon (Political Science)

Senior Lectors II Sandra Sanneh, Kiarie Wa'Njogu

Senior Lectors Oluseye Adesola, Matuku Ngame

African Studies Courses

* AFST 001a / ARCG 001a / NELC 001a, Egypt and Northeast Africa: A Multidisciplinary ApproachJohn Darnell

Examination of approximately 10,000 years of Nile Valley cultural history, with an introduction to the historical and archaeological study of Egypt and Nubia. Consideration of the Nile Valley as the meeting place of the cultures and societies of northeast Africa. Various written and visual sources are used, including the collections of the Peabody Museum and the Yale Art Gallery. Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program.  WR, HU
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

* AFST 188b / AFAM 260b / ER&M 278b / HSAR 468b, The Black Atlantic Visual TraditionRobert Thompson

Introduction to key African civilizations and to important recent work in the art of Africa and the Afro-Atlantic world. Study of the art and culture of major civilizations, e.g. the Yoruba, and the continuity of their art in the New World. In-depth discussions, based on readings and weekly response papers. Study trips to Yale University Art Gallery’s newly displayed collections of African Art.  HU
F 1:30pm-3:20pm

* AFST 200b, Cradle Paradox: Evolution, Myth, and National Identity in Contemporary AfricaVeronica Waweru

Africa as the cradle of humanity is a widely accepted theory in scientific studies. Elsewhere nationalist archaeology has been used to bolster nationalism and facilitate state building. Africans, while embracing their recent history, have a marked disconnect to the cradle paradigm. A paradox thus arises out of the fact that the cradle of humanity status of Africa appears to hold no special place in the psyche of most of its inhabitants. This course examines symbolism, colonialism, poverty, media, literacy, and religion as agencies that distance the ‘humanity cradle’ status of Africa from nationalist and identity discourses.  SO
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

* AFST 234a / EP&E 234a, Market Liberalism, Socialist Planning, and Ideas of DevelopmentNicoli Nattrass

Exploration of market liberalism, socialist planning, and contestation over the role of the state in the idea of development. Study of key classical economists; Marxism and Utopian socialism; how collectivisation was applied in the Soviet Union and in the African context; and discussion of the rise of development economics, highlighting the work of W. Arthur Lewis and Amartya Sen. Prerequisite: ECON 110 or 115, or permission of the instructor.  SO
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 238a / AMST 238a / ER&M 238a, Introduction to Third World StudiesGary Okihiro

Introduction to the historical and contemporary theories and articulations of Third World studies (comparative ethnic studies) as an academic field and practice. Consideration of subject matters; methodologies and theories; literatures; and practitioners and institutional arrangements.  SO
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

* AFST 239a / AFAM 230a / CLCV 239a / LITR 315a, Conversations between Ancient Greece, Africa, and the Black DiasporaEmily Greenwood and Sarah Derbew

Investigation of the ways that black diasporic artists have engaged with, revised, and re-imagined Greco-Roman Classics, in order to both expose and critique discourses of racism, imperialism, and colonialism, and as a fertile source of mythological material. Students engage with a diverse array of materials, including collage, graphic novels, novels, oral literature, poetry, and film.  HU
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

* AFST 305b / GLBL 305b, Social Enterprise in Developing Economies IRobert Hopkins

Harnessing the power of markets in the fight against poverty. The use of social enterprise to foster local empowerment and establish the building blocks of regional economic development. Measuring the impact of grants and program-related investments from philanthropic organizations and for-profit corporations. Students design summer research projects. Followed by GLBL 306 in the fall term.  SO
MW 1pm-2:15pm

* AFST 306a / GLBL 306a, Social Enterprise in Developing Economies IIRobert Hopkins

Summer research developed into a case-study project on a topic related to the use of social enterprise in regional economic development. Prerequisite: GLBL 305
T 7pm-8:50pm

* AFST 348b / MMES 291b / SOCY 232b, Islamic Social MovementsJonathan Wyrtzen

Social movement theory used to analyze the emergence and evolution of Islamic movements from the early twentieth century to the present. Organization, mobilization, political process, and framing of political, nonpolitical, militant, and nonmilitant movements; transnational dimensions of Islamic activism. Case studies include the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizbollah, Al-Qaeda, Gulen, Al-Adl wa-Ihsann, Islamic State, and others.  SO
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

* AFST 353a / MUSI 353a, Topics in World MusicMichael Veal

A critical introduction to selected cultures of world music. Specific cultures vary from year to year but generally include those of Native America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Preference to Music majors according to class.  HU
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

* AFST 373b / GLBL 362b / MMES 282b / SOCY 339b, Imperialism, Insurgency, and State Building in the Middle East and North AfricaJonathan Wyrtzen

The historical evolution of political order from Morocco to Central Asia in the past two centuries. Focus on relationships between imperialism, insurgency, and state building. Ottoman, European, and nationalist strategies for state building; modes of local resistance; recent transnational developments; American counterinsurgency and nation-building initiatives in the region.  SO
T 9:25am-11:15am

AFST 381a / PLSC 381a, Government and Politics in AfricaKatharine Baldwin

The establishment and use of political power in selected countries of tropical Africa. The political role of ethnic and class cleavages, military coups, and the relation between politics and economic development.  SO
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

* AFST 382a or b, Child Health and Development in AfricaNicholas Alipui

Examination of the most critical issues and trends in child health, child survival and development, and efforts to incorporate priorities of children and future generations after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly.  SO

* AFST 390a / HIST 390Ja / HSHM 480a / WGSS 381a, Black Bodies and White Science in South AfricaEfeoghene Igor

A historical perspective on the relationship between science, medicine, aesthetics, and racial embodiment in South Africa. Consideration of the ways in which science and aesthetics can offer news ways of thinking about citizenship in colonial and apartheid South Africa; investigation of the grammar of racialized science and its role in colonial and apartheid policies.   HU
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* AFST 400a / EP&E 499a / PLSC 401a, Democratic Politics and Public Policy in Contemporary AfricaJeremy Seekings

Examination of how the resurgence of competitive, multi-party elections in Africa has reinfused democratic governance and transformed the process of public policy-making. Emphasis on the political landscape of public opinion and voting behavior; elections and political parties; the state and governance; as well as policy-making, with focus on economic and social policies.  SO
T 3:30pm-5:20pm

* AFST 401a, Research Methods in African StudiesVeronica Waweru

Disciplinary and interdisciplinary research methodologies in African studies, with emphasis on field methods and archival research in the social sciences and humanities. Research methodologies are compared by studying recent works in African studies.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

* AFST 424a / AFAM 446a / ENGL 424a, African Urban Cultures and Literatures of the CityStephanie Newell

The study of African cities and urbanization through the medium of diverse texts, including fiction, non-fiction, popular culture, film, and the arts, as well as scholarly work on African cities.  WR, HU
T 9:25am-11:15am

* AFST 435b / THST 335b, West African Dance: Traditional to ContemporaryLacina Coulibaly

A practical and theoretical study of the traditional dances of Africa, focusing on those of Burkina Faso and their contemporary manifestations. Emphasis on rhythm, kinesthetic form, and gestural expression. The fusion of modern European dance and traditional African dance. Admission by audition during the first class meeting.  HURP
TTh 10:30am-12:20pm

* AFST 470a / ECON 469a / EP&E 470a / GLBL 325a, Health Inequality and DevelopmentNicoli Nattrass

Economic analysis of the interactions between health, inequality, and development. Growth and development; health and well-being; burden of disease and funding for health; the relationship between growth and health; international health policy. Prerequisite: introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics.  SO
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

* AFST 486a / HIST 388Ja, Slavery and the Slave Trade in AfricaRobert Harms

The slave trade from the African perspective. Analysis of why slavery developed in Africa and how it operated. The long-term social, political, and economic effects of the Atlantic slave trade.  WR, HU
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

* AFST 487a / HIST 387Ja, West African Islam: Jihad Tradition and Its Pacifist OpponentsLamin Sanneh

The influence of Islam on state and society, and the encounters of Muslim Africans first with non-Muslim societies in Africa and then with the modern West in the colonial and postcolonial periods. Focus on Muslim religious attitudes and responses to the secular national state and to the Western tradition of the separation of church and state.  WR, HU
W 2:30pm-4:20pm

* AFST 491a or b, The Senior EssayStaff

Independent research on the senior essay. By the end of the sixth week of classes, a rough draft of the entire essay should be completed. By the end of the last week of classes (fall term) or three weeks before the end of classes (spring term), two copies of the final essay must be submitted.

Kiswahili Courses

SWAH 110a, 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 120.  L11½ Course cr
MTWThF 9:25am-10:15am

SWAH 120b, Beginning Kiswahili IIKiarie Wa'Njogu

Continuation of SWAH 110. Texts provide an introduction to the basic structure of Kiswahili and to the culture of the speakers of the language. Prerequisite: SWAH 110.  L21½ Course cr
MF 9am-10:15am

SWAH 130a, Intermediate Kiswahili IVeronica Waweru

Further development of students' 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. After SWAH 120.  L31½ Course cr
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

SWAH 140b, Intermediate Kiswahili IIVeronica Waweru

Continuation of SWAH 130. After SWAH 130.  L41½ Course cr
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

SWAH 150a, 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. After SWAH 140.  L5
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

SWAH 160b, Advanced Kiswahili IIKiarie Wa'Njogu

Continuation of SWAH 150. After SWAH 150.  L5
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

SWAH 170a and SWAH 171b, Topics in Kiswahili LiteratureKiarie Wa'Njogu

Advanced readings and discussion with emphasis on literary and historical texts. Reading assignments include materials on Kiswahili poetry, Kiswahili dialects, and the history of the language. After SWAH 160.  L5, HU
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm

Yoruba Courses

YORU 110a, 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 120.  L11½ Course cr
MTWThF 10:30am-11:20am

YORU 120b, 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 110.  L21½ Course cr
MTWThF 10:30am-11:20am

YORU 130a, Intermediate Yorùbá IOluseye Adesola

Refinement of students' 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. After YORU 120.  L31½ Course cr
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

YORU 140b, 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. After YORU 130.  L41½ Course cr
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

YORU 150a, Advanced Yorùbá IOluseye Adesola

An advanced course intended to improve students' aural and reading comprehension as well as speaking and writing skills. Emphasis 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 movies and recorded poems (ewì); and music. After YORU 140.  L5
MW 1pm-2:15pm

YORU 160b, Advanced Yorùbá IIOluseye Adesola

Continuing development of students' 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. After YORU 150.  L5
MW 1pm-2:15pm

YORU 170a and YORU 171b, Topics in Yorùbá Literature and CultureOluseye Adesola

Advanced readings and discussion concerning Yorùbá literature and culture. Focus on Yorùbá history, poetry, novels, movies, dramas, and oral folklore, especially from Nigeria. Insight into Yorùbá philosophy and ways of life. Prerequisite: YORU 160.  L5, HU
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

YORU 181b, Advanced Topics in Yorùbá Literature and CultureStaff

Designed for students with superior proficiency in Yorùbá who have an interest in topics not otherwise covered by existing courses. Development of language proficiency to the level of an educated native speaker. Discussion of advanced readings on Yorùbá philosophy, history, literature, and culture.  L5

Zulu Courses

ZULU 110a, 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 120.  L11½ Course cr
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

ZULU 120b, Beginning isiZulu IISandra Sanneh

Development of communication skills through dialogues and role play. Texts and songs are drawn from traditional and popular literature. Students research daily life in selected areas of South Africa. Prerequisite: ZULU 110.  L21½ Course cr
MTWThF 11:35am-12:25pm

ZULU 130a, Intermediate isiZulu ISandra Sanneh

Development of fluency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, 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. After ZULU 120.  L31½ Course cr
MTWThF 9:25am-10:15am

ZULU 140b, Intermediate isiZulu IISandra Sanneh

Students read longer texts from popular media as well as myths and folktales. Prepares students for initial research involving interaction with speakers of isiZulu in South Africa and for the study of oral and literary genres. After ZULU 130.  L41½ Course cr
MTWThF 9:25am-10:15am

* ZULU 150a, Advanced isiZulu ISandra Sanneh

Development of fluency in using idioms, speaking about abstract concepts, and voicing preferences and opinions. Excerpts from oral genres, short stories, and television dramas. Introduction to other South African languages and to issues of standardization, dialect, and language attitude. After ZULU 140. Course includes students from Cornell University via videoconference.  L5
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

* ZULU 160b, Advanced isiZulu IIStaff

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. After ZULU 150. Course includes students from Cornell University via videoconference.  L5
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm