Interim and Spring Course Previews: African Politics

With registration for Interim and Spring 2014 fast approaching, we wanted to preview four new courses about to debut. We’ll start with HIS/POS329 African Politics, a cross-listed course taught by Bethel’s newest political science professor, Andy Bramsen. A specialist in the politics of North and West Africa, Andy grew up in Senegal and received his PhD from the University of Notre Dame, where his dissertation explored the political role of Islamic leaders and organizations in Algeria and Mali.

Monument de la renaissance africaine
The African Renaissance Monument, dedicated in 2010, on the 50th anniversary of Senegal’s independence from France – courtesy of Andy Bramsen

HIS/POS329 African Politics

What are some of the big themes of your African Politics course? What do you most look forward to talking about in it?

We spend a good bit of time considering the impact of pre-colonial African history and colonization on state development in Africa and examining the nature of contemporary challenges such as corruption, debt, conflict, and health crises. I especially enjoy talking about the many fascinating personalities that have dominated African political life and the positive changes that have occurred in the past quarter-century in many parts of the continent.

What do you think students will enjoy most about it? What will they find most challenging, or surprising?

I think students will particularly enjoy the many stories we will read and discuss that illustrate broader themes in African political life. One of the main books we read for the course is a history of Africa in the first half century or so of independence for most countries and it is really good about bringing in the human element. We will also read a novel by Chinua Achebe [No Longer At Ease] to help us understand the problem of corruption at a much deeper level. I think students will find the complexity of African politics and history somewhat challenging, although we will spend a lot of class time making sure that becomes clearer. Students may be surprised by how much pre-colonial African history remains relevant to Africa’s contemporary story.

If students take away only one thing from the course, what would you like it to be?

An enriched appreciation of the diversity of the African political experience in contrast to the more uniformly negative portrait we get in our news reports.

Read the next course preview in this series>>

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