Political Science | Contemporary African Conflicts
Y342 | 9543 | McLaughlin
News reports about African affairs rarely appear on the front pages
of our newspapers and, when they do, the news is almost always bad.
Despite the fact that the African continent makes up 20% of the
world’s land mass, most Americans know Africa only as a land of
turmoil, dictatorship, disease, hunger, poverty and “tribal” warfare.
This course has two objectives. The first is to familiarize students
with the details surrounding several of Africa’s most recent and
ongoing conflicts. By the end of the semester, students will be
familiar with the geography, politics, and economics of these
conflicts and be able to discuss them intelligently. The second
objective of the course is to see how political science theory can
contribute to our understanding of these conflicts and, indeed, what
these conflicts have to say about political science theory. This is
not, in other words, simply a course in African current events. We
will consider the African conflicts we study from the perspective of
social science in an effort to understand their causes and
consequences for the people of Africa and for the world.
Specific topics covered in the course may vary somewhat dependent on
student interest, but candidates include conflicts in Sudan, Liberia,
Sierra Leone, Angola, Zaire, Uganda, the so-called “Horn of Africa,”
genocide in Rwanda, and the struggle to end apartheid and build
democracy in South Africa. As we study these conflicts we will
consider such topics as the role of natural resources in conflicts,
the role of “ethnicity” or “tribe” in African conflict, international
intervention, “truth and reconciliation,” the impact of conflicts on
women and children, indigenous conflict resolution mechanisms, and
the effect of conflict on institutions of governance.
The format for this class will be lecture combined with discussion.
Students should anticipate a reading-intensive workload and come to
class prepared to contribute. Assessment will be based on a
combination of class participation, two midterms, a final paper, and
several short in-class group assignments.