Political Science | African Politics and Policymaking
Y657 | 12613 | Morris MacLean
Africa and African politics is not simply tragedy. While not
glossing over the depth and recurrence of crises in Africa, this
course seeks to uncover our commonly-held assumptions and go beyond
simple stereotypes. During the course, we will try to understand
the complexity, variety and fluidity of African politics. Perhaps
more than any other continent, politics are not always what they
seem on the surface; they vary tremendously from place to place; and
they change sometimes quickly and radically.
The course is organized around four main sets of issues:
1) the legacies of the past for African politics today;
2) the economic challenges continuing to face Africa;
3) the prospects for democracy in Africa; and,
4) Africa’s relationship with other countries, donors, and NGOs.
This course is intended as a graduate-level introduction to the
politics of Sub-Saharan Africa and does not require that students
have prior experience or background in the area. The course will be
enriched by the participation of Africanist political scientists,
Africanists outside of political science, as well as those non-
Africanist students with relevant theoretical interests in
comparative politics, public policy, IR, and political theory.
Not only will we learn more about Africa, but Africa can test our
theories about democracy, state-building, political economy,
participation, citizenship, etc., and teach us about other parts of
the world and ourselves. By the end of the course, we will see how
the challenges and problems confronting African societies concern us
While the course focuses more heavily on the events of the last two
decades, approximately one quarter of the course delves into the
political history of the pre-colonial, colonial and independence
eras. In my view, in order to understand present politics in
Africa, it is vital to examine the past.
The course is intended as a broad survey of sub-Saharan Africa, but
several country cases will be highlighted, including: Ghana, Cote
d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Democractic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda,
and Tanzania. South Africa will be discussed only very briefly as
it is arguably quite distinct from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.