African Studies

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

Cajetan Iheaka (English)

Director of Graduate Studies
Louisa Lombard (Anthropology)

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

Professors Serap Aksoy (Epidemiology), Lea Brilmayer (Law), Richard Bucala (Internal Medicine), Theodore Cohen (Epidemiology), John Darnell (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations), Anna Dyson (Architecture), Owen Fiss (Emeritus; Law), Robert Harms (History), Cajetan Iheka (English), Ann Kurth (Nursing), Daniel Magaziner (History), Roderick McIntosh (Anthropology), Stephanie Newell (English), Elijah Paintsil (Pediatrics; Epidemiology; Pharmacology), Catherine Panter-Brick (Anthropology), Curtis Patton (Emeritus; Epidemiology), David Post (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Asghar Rastegar (EmeritusInternal Medicine), Ian Shapiro (Political Science), Donna Spiegelman (Biostatistics), Michael Veal (Music), Sten Vermund (Epidemiology; Pediatrics), David Watts (Anthropology), Elisabeth Wood (Political Science)

Associate Professors Katharine Baldwin (Political Science), Marie Brault (Public Health), Cécile Fromont (History of Art), Kaveh Khoshnood (Epidemiology), Louisa Lombard (Anthropology), Urania Magriples (Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences), LaRon Nelson (Nursing), Sunil Parikh (Public Health; Internal Medicine), Carla Staver (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Jonathan Wyrtzen (Sociology)

Assistant Professors Amy Bei (Epidemiology), Jill Jarvis (French), Benedito Machava (History), Hani Mowafi (Emergency Medicine), Christine Ngaruiya (Emergency Medicine), Oluwatosin Onibokun (Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences), Nana Osei Quarshie (History), Tracy Rabin (Internal Medicine), Jeremy Schwartz (Internal Medicine), Sheela Shenoi (Internal Medicine), Carla Staver (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)

Lecturers Adalgisa Caccone (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), W. Casey King (Public Health), Sarah Ryan (Law), David Simon (Political Science), Veronica Waweru (African Languages)

Senior Lectors Oluseye Adesola (Yorùbá), Jonas Elbousty (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), Matuku Ngame (French), Nandipa Sipengane (isiZulu), Kiarie Wa’Njogu (Swahili)

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 the Environment, 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 catalogs, photographs, manuscripts, correspondence, and theses, many published in Africa.

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: one compulsory interdisciplinary seminar, Gateway to Africa (AFST 505); a second course employing an interdisciplinary approach to African Studies, approved 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; with permission of the DGS, AFST 951 may be substituted for AFST 590. 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.

Program in African Languages

The language program offers instruction in five major languages from sub-Saharan Africa: Kiswahili (eastern and central Africa), Twi, Wolof, 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

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 565a / ANTH 512a, Infrastructures of Empire: Control and (In)security in the Global SouthLeslie Gross-Wyrtzen

This advanced seminar examines the role that infrastructure plays in producing uneven geographies of power historically and in the “colonial present” (Gregory, 2006). After defining terms and exploring the ways that infrastructure has been conceptualized and studied, we analyze how different types of infrastructure (energy, roads, people, and so on) constitute the material and social world of empire. At the same time, infrastructure is not an uncontested arena: it often serves as a key site of political struggle or even enters the fray as an unruly actor itself, thus conditioning possibilities for anti-imperial and decolonial practice. The geographic focus of this course is the African continent, but we explore comparative cases in other regions of the majority and minority world.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 567a / PLSC 798a, Bureaucracy in Africa: Revolution, Genocide, and ApartheidJonny 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.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

AFST 568a, Tackling the Big Three: Malaria, TB, and HIV in Resource-Limited SettingsSunil Parikh

Malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV account for more than five million deaths worldwide each year. This course provides a deep foundation for understanding these pathogens and explores the public health issues that surround these infectious diseases in resource-limited settings. Emphasis is placed on issues in Africa, but contrasts for each disease are provided in the broader developing world. The course is divided into three sections, each focusing in depth on the individual infectious disease as well as discussions of interactions among the three diseases. The sections consist of three to four lectures each on the biology, individual consequences, and community/public health impact of each infectious disease. Discussion of ongoing, field-based research projects involving the diseases is led by relevant faculty (research into practice). The course culminates with a critical discussion of major public health programmatic efforts to tackle these diseases, such as those of PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Fund, and the Stop TB Partnership.
T 10am-11:50am

AFST 590a, African Studies ColloquiumJill Jarvis

Students conduct research for the master’s thesis, give presentations on their research, and prepare a bibliography, a prospectus, and a draft chapter of the master’s thesis. Discussion of model essays and other examples of writing.
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

AFST 719a, Christianity and Coloniality in Contemporary AfricaKyama Mugambi

Missionary complicity with the colonial enterprise puts Christianity at the heart of the problematic relationship between the African continent and the West. At the same time, Christianity has continued to grow rapidly in post-independence Africa. In much of Africa south of the Sahara, decolonization efforts coincided with the period of the greatest Christian expansion in history. Africa is now the continent with the highest population of Christians. This course examines this conundrum through critical engagement with theory, literature, and data from the continent. Students examine historiographic, political, social, economic, and demographic dimensions of this discussion. They meet key theories posited with regard to African Christianity in the wake of a colonial history. The course surveys contemporary issues in the discourse within the urban, educational, social, and cultural spheres. Students also consider gender perspectives on coloniality as it pertains to religion and politics. The course assesses the role of indigenous agency in the development of Christianity within contemporary Africa. Through this course students will gain a more nuanced perspective as they examine and problematize critical arguments in the prevailing discourse on Christianity and coloniality in Africa today. Area III, Area V.
W 9:30am-11:20am

AFST 779a, 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa: A History of the African ChurchKyama Mugambi

The rapid, previously unexpected growth of Christianity in Africa in the twentieth century calls for deeper scholarly reflection. Keen students of global trends are aware that Africa is now home to more Christians than Europe or North America. While the rapid growth can be traced to a century of vigorous activity, Christianity has a long eventful history on the continent. This course provides a broad overview of Christianity in Africa over two millennia. The early part of the course focuses on the beginnings and development of the Church in Africa. The material highlights the role of African Christian thinkers in shaping early Christian discourses in increasingly dynamic global and continental contexts. The course weaves critical themes emerging in African Christianity north of the expansive Sahara desert, and then south of it. Students encounter critical issues in missionary Christianity in Africa and gain a historical understanding of the milestones in Christian growth that contribute to Christianity’s status as both an African and global religion. Area III.
W 3:30pm-5:20pm

AFST 833a, Agrarian History of AfricaRobert Harms

This course examines changes in African rural life from precolonial times to the present. Issues to be examined include land use systems, rural modes of production, gender roles, markets and trade, the impact of colonialism, cash cropping, rural-urban migration, and development schemes.
W 9:25am-11:15am

AFST 889a / CPLT 889a / ENGL 889a, Postcolonial EcologiesCajetan Iheka

This seminar examines the intersections of postcolonialism and ecocriticism as well as the tensions between these conceptual nodes, with readings drawn from across the global South. Topics of discussion include colonialism, development, resource extraction, globalization, ecological degradation, nonhuman agency, and indigenous cosmologies. The course is concerned with the narrative strategies affording the illumination of environmental ideas. We begin by engaging with the questions of postcolonial and world literature and return to these throughout the semester as we read primary texts, drawn from Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. We consider African ecologies in their complexity from colonial through post-colonial times. In the unit on the Caribbean, we take up the transformations of the landscape from slavery, through colonialism, and the contemporary era. Turning to Asian spaces, the seminar explores changes brought about by modernity and globalization as well as the effects on both humans and nonhumans. Readings include the writings of Zakes Mda, Aminatta Forna, Helon Habila, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Ishimure Michiko, and Amitav Ghosh. The course prepares students to respond to key issues in postcolonial ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, analyze the work of the major thinkers in the fields, and examine literary texts and other cultural productions from a postcolonial perspective. Course participants have the option of selecting from a variety of final projects. Students can craft an original essay that analyzes primary text from a postcolonial and/or ecocritical perspective. Such work should aim at producing new insight on a theoretical concept and/or the cultural text. They can also produce an undergraduate syllabus for a course at the intersection of postcolonialism and environmentalism or write a review essay discussing three recent monographs focused on postcolonial ecocriticism.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

SWAH 610a, Beginning Kiswahili IJohn 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 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 10:30am-11:20am

SWAH 650a, Advanced Kiswahili IJohn 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 670a, Topics in Kiswahili LiteratureJohn 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 9:25am-10:15am

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.
TTh 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.
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

YORU 670a, 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.
MW 1pm-2:15pm

YORU 672b, Topics in Yorùbá Literature and Culture IIOluseye Adesola

Continuation of YORU 670.
MW 1pm-2:15pm