TAFAPDC75U Compulsory course: Politics, Development and Change in Africa

Volume 2023/2024

MA In African Studies


This course focuses on key political, political-economic, social, institutional and developmental dimensions of change in Africa. It combines critical social science perspectives and historical analysis with illustrative empirical cases on such themes as: nation and belonging, state and state making, citizenship, democracy and elections, authority and governance. It problematises notions of progress, improvement and development and investigates their manifestations and effects in practice in diverse African settings.   

Learning Outcome

The aim is for the student to acquire the following qualifications:

  • Knowledge of a range of local and national political actors, systems and processes
  • Knowledge of critical approaches to political, social and economic development actors, system and processes
  • Knowledge of Africa’s place in international political, social and economic systems
  • Knowledge of interdisciplinary approaches to significant themes related to politics, development and change within contemporary Africa
  • Skills in analysing complex social, political and political-economic phenomena in diverse and changing African contexts
  • Skills in identifying and analysing developmental challenges in Africa
  • Skills in independently initiating and defining the parameters of a research question
  • Competence to conduct independent, interdisciplinary and critical analysis of a sub-topic within the field of politics, development and change
  • Competence to master different stages of writing a major assignment
  • Competence to engage critically and reflectively in a peer review process

Suggested literature:


Balibar, Etienne, 1990. ‘The Nation Form: History and Ideology’, Review (Fernand Braudel Center), Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 329-361


Bierschenk, Thomas and Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, 2014. ‘Studying the Dynamics of African Bureaucracies. An Introduction to States at Work’, in Thomas Bierschenk and Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan (eds.), States at Work. Dynamics of African Bureaucracies, Leiden: Brill, pp. 1-33


Chant, Sylvia, 2000. ‘From ‘Woman-Blind’ to ‘Man-kind’. Should men have more space in gender and development?’ IDS Bulletin Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 7-17


Cheeseman, Nic, 2011. ‘The internal dynamics of power-sharing in Africa’, Democratization, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 336-365


Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff, 2016 (2012). ‘Figuring Democracy. An Anthropological Take on African Political Modernities’, in Theory from the South, Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 109 – 131


Cooper, Frederick, 1994. ‘Conflict and Connection: Rethinking Colonial African History’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 99, No. 5, pp. 1516-1545


Cornwall, Andrea, 2007. ‘Buzzwords and fuzzwords: deconstructing development discourse’, Development in Practice, Vol. 17, Nos. 4-5, pp. 471-484


Ellis, Stephen, and Ineke van Kessel, 2009. ‘Introduction: African Social Movements Or Social Movements in Africa?’, in Stephen Ellis and Ineke van Kessel (eds), Movers and Shaker. Social Movements in Africa, Leiden and Boston: Brill, pp. 1-16


Ferguson, James, 2004. ‘Power Topographies’ in David Nugent and Joan Vincent (eds), A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics, Malden, Oxford and Carlton: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 383-399


Hagmann, Tobias, and Didier Péclard, 2010. ‘Negotiating Statehood: Dynamics of Power and Domination in Africa’, Development and Change, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 539-562


Hearn, Julie, 2007. ‘African NGOs: The New Compradors?’, Development and Change, Vol. 38, No. 6, pp. 1095–1110


Larmer, Miles, 2015. ‘Historicising Activism in Late Colonial and Post‐Colonial Sub‐Saharan Africa’, Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp.67-89


Leftwich, Adrian, 2004 (1984). ‘Thinking Politically. On the Politics of Politics’, in Adrian Leftwich (ed), What is Politics? The Activity and its Study, Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 1-22


Li, Tania M., 2007. ‘Introduction’ The Will to Improve. Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics, Durham and London: Duke University Press, pp. 1-30


Lindell, Ilda, 2008. ‘The multiple sites of urban governance. Insights from an African City’, Urban Studies vol. 45, no. 9. pp. 1879-1898


Lund, Christian, 2006. ‘Twilight Institutions: Public Authority and Local Politics in Africa’, Development and Change, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 685-705

Mbembe, Achille, 2001, ‘Introduction: Time on the Move’, in On the Postcolony, Berekeley, Los Angelese, London: University of Caifornia Press, pp. 1 – 23


Mosse, David, 2004. ‘Is Good Policy Unimplementable? Reflections on the Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice’, Development and Change, Vol. 35, Issue 4, pp. 639–671

Raftopoulos, Brian, 2007. ‘Nation, Race and History in Zimbabwe Politics’, in Sara Dorman, Daniel Hammett and Paul Nugent (eds), Making Nations, Creating Strangers. State and Citizenship in Africa, Leiden and Boston: Brill, pp. 181-194


Rakner, Lise and Nicholas van de Walle, 2009. ‘Opposition Weakness in Africa’, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 20, No. 3, July 2009, pp. 108-121


Rankin, Katharine N., 2009.’ Critical development studies and the praxis of planning’, City, Vol. 13, Nos. 2-3, pp. 219-229


Yarrow, Thomas, 2008. Life/History: Personal Narratives of Development Amongst NGO Workers and Activists in Ghana’, Africa, Vol. 78, No.3, pp. 334-358

The course is only open for CAS MA students and professional master students.
The course, which is held in the first half of the second semester, is organised in three inter-related phases: an instruction phase focusing on the theoretical, thematic, empirical and methodological aspects of the course; a writing phase which consists of students preparing the first draft of an individual written paper, with some limited supervision; an opponent phase in which individual papers are presented in opponent peer groups in which students receive feedback from the lecturer and fellow students on their papers, which are subsequently revised as the final exam paper.

In the instruction phase, sessions consist of 2 hours twice per week over 7 weeks in the first half of the second semester. The course will be based on lectures and possibly some film material and guest speakers, combined with classroom discussions, requiring active participation from the students.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam Preparation
  • 59
  • Exam
  • 1
  • Total
  • 210
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
The exam paper must be 24,000-28,800 characters in length.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period

Summer exam