Watson Institute at Brown University
Africa Initiative

Related Courses

HIST 1030 Entangled South Africa

Examines the contradiction of twentieth century South Africa as a divided society that nonetheless had dense contact across boundaries. In considering daily life, social interactions, and relations with animals, we find a challenging politics of entanglement within the class, gender, and racial hierarchies of apartheid. We close with a discussion of new divisions and alignments emerging during the transition to democratic rule in the 1990s.

POBS 1601P Global Decolonization in Africa and Asia: the Portuguese Case in a Comparative Perspective

This course provides a critical, comparative assessment of the global decolonization momentum, taking the Portuguese case as the key case-study. It does so by exploring diverse historiographical problems and historical processes that shaped the multiple trajectories of decolonization after 1945. As a consequence, the course also addresses the role of international and transnational networks, movements and institutions in the global histories of decolonization, as major players in the demise of European colonialism. The historical legacies of late colonialism in politics, society and culture, both in former colonies and metropoles, will also be assessed. Conducted in English.

AFRI 0670 Global Black Radicalism

The decade from the mid-Sixties until the mid-Seventies witnessed the rise of Black Radicalism as a global phenomenon. The emergence of Black Power in the US, Brazil and the Caribbean, the consolidation of liberation struggles in Portuguese Africa and the rise of a Black Consciousness trend in Apartheid South Africa all represent key moments. What led young activists to embrace “Black Power?” What led to the emergence of Marxist movements in Portuguese Africa? What events in the Caribbean gave ascendancy to radical tendencies? And what forces contributed to the decline of these movements? This course seeks to answer these questions.

ANTH 1622 Archaeology of Settler Colonialism

The course uses settler colonialism as a framework for understanding how European colonists attempted to displace and eliminate Indigenous peoples beginning in the 15th century and its historical implications for structural inequalities of race and gender. We will look at how settler colonialism is different from colonialism, and more importantly, at resistances challenging its ambitions. Case studies from North America mostly, but also Australia, South Africa, and other settler colonial societies will focus on historical archaeology’s contributions to illuminating settler colonialist strategies for establishing and maintaining settler sovereignty in light of concerns for decolonizing archaeological practices. We will give special attention to the insights gained about the experiences of dispossessed, enslaved, and marginalized peoples and their descendants, and the many ways their actions critiqued settler colonialism and imagined different futures. 

EGYT 0550 Black Pharaohs: Nubian Kings and Queens of Ancient Egypt

This course explores the history of northeastern Africa at a time when ancient Egypt was ruled by its neighbor to the south, Nubia. The Nubian pharaohs from the Kingdom of Kush (present-day Sudan) adopted many Egyptian customs, including hieroglyphic writing, in a period referred to as ancient Egypt’s 25th Dynasty (747–656 BC). Study of this period has suffered from racist and colonialist attitudes towards the Black inhabitants of northeast Africa, ancient and modern, feeding into a racialized modern discourse around the identity and origins of the ancient Egyptians as well. In this course students will: examine recent interpretations of the Nubian dynasty using ancient texts in translation, art, architecture, and artifacts; look critically at modern historians’ blind spots and prejudices; and evaluate the social constructs of race and ethnicity in the study of the great African civilizations of antiquity.

HIAA 1822 Dada and Surrealism: Anarchy, Exile, Alterity

This seminar will examine the experimental practices of Dada and Surrealism with a focus on the historical conditions, theoretical influences, and political ambitions that shaped them: the trauma of war; experiences of exile and displacement; uses and abuses of psychoanalysis, anthropology, and political theory; Communist allegiances; as well as anti-colonial projects and counterparts in the Caribbean, Latin America, and North Africa. We will consider a range of artistic practices (performance, assemblage, the “readymade,” photomontage, poetry, painting, sculpture, exhibitions) with the aim of complicating our understanding of these movements and assessing the relevance of their subversive project today.

HIST 1975J Portuguese Discoveries and Early Modern Global History

This seminar introduces students to the study of Portugal and its connections to Africa, Asia and the Americas between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Rather than offering a chronological or geographic overview of the topic, we will consider the shifting meanings of "discovery" as understood by early modern individuals and historians since, and how expressions of "discovery" have reflected tensions and struggles around empire, race, gender, and other social categories of difference.

JUDS 1713 Introduction to Yiddish Culture and Language

Yiddish was the language spoken by most Jews in Eastern Europe and the countries to which they emigrated (including the U.S., England, South Africa, South American countries, and Israel) from the nineteenth century until after the Holocaust. It was the basis for a transnational Jewish culture and literature, and it played a central role in modern Jewish political life. We will explore the history of Yiddish culture and the development of the Yiddish press, literature, and cinema. The connection between Yiddish and modern Jewish politics will also be discussed. Students in this course will also have the opportunity to develop a basic knowledge of the Yiddish language.

LANG 0150S Swahili I

Students successfully completing this beginner's course in Swahili Language and Culture will be able to communicate in Swahili in a culturally-appropriate way. Students will practice skills in an integrated fashion in order to reach some proficiency in speaking, reading, listening, and writing. Course content includes language, culture, history and music. Heritage speakers may place into the course depending on their language level. Like English, Swahili is not a tonal language, and considered to be one of the easier African languages to learn. Whether you are interested in Swahili in order to study and work in Africa or to engage with Swahili speakers in other parts of the world, this beginners course will prepare you well! 

POBS 1601Q Portuguese and Lusophone African Literature and Cinema

The course aims to study the relationship between literature and cinema in the context of renowned Portuguese authors and Portuguese-speaking Africa. Thus, students will study a varied group of great novelists (José Saramago, José Eduardo Agualusa, Mia Couto) and notable filmmakers (João Botelho, Ivo M. Ferreira, Teresa Prata, Lula Buarque de Hollanda) who chose to direct films from the texts of these writers. And, due to their importance, unavoidable filmmakers (Paulo Rocha, Manoel de Oliveira and Miguel Gomes, Flora Gomes) will also be approached. Conducted in Portuguese. 

RELS 0610 Sufi Islam

A historically oriented survey of mystical philosophies and social practices associated with Sufi Islam. We will concentrate on three areas: (1) Concepts and practices going back to the earliest men and women identifiable as Sufis; (2) Prose and poetry of two medieval masters—Ibn al-ʿArabi (d. 1240) and Jalaloddin Rumi (d. 1274)—who have had long-lasting influence on Sufi thought; and (3) Sufi social practices as seen in the history and ethnography of societies in Asia and Africa. The course will pay special attention to the way Sufis have addressed aesthetic, ethical, and existential issues faced by human beings. 

TAPS 1230 Global Theatre and Performance: Paleolithic to the Threshold of Modernity

This course explores performance practices that predate the European Renaissance across disparate parts of the globe. Considered will be Paleolithic rock art and other evidence of ritual practices in Europe, Africa, and the Americas; ritual dramas of Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire; Sub-Saharan African traditions and theatre/dance forms in ancient India, medieval Japan and the indigenous Americas. In short, we will explore a wealth of differing ancestral theatrical modes and methods that continue to leave their mark in contemporary diasporic expressions.

LANG 1000A Living in Translation: Trans/national Mobilities and Multilingualism

Current and historical voluntary, forced, and induced migrations demand we reflect on how we think about languages, as well as the persistent changes we make to language. Translation is one of the changes we encounter daily. This course discusses the ways that thinking in/of translation alters and facilitates our reading, writing, and interpretation. It considers multilingualism alongside the cannibal, a disruptor and figure of linguistic alterity. Our aim is to think about the authors’ and texts’ trans/national movements as we generate questions about mobilities, language, and decoloniality, as well as how they manifest in cultural productions. Materials include novels, short stories, essays, musical recordings, visual art, and film. Authors include Edwidge Danticat, Haruki Murakami, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Binyavanga Wainaina, and Gloria Anzaldúa among others, with texts in transit between Brazil, Germany, Haiti, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Turkey, etc.

YORU 0300 Intermediate Yoruba I

Prerequisite: YORU 0200 or instructor's approval. Learners will be to able read basic Yoruba texts and understand them. They are introduced to Yoruba literature. Learners will be able to listen to basic dialogue in Yoruba language as spoken by native speakers and understand them. Some of these may include some radio jingles. Learners will be able to describe basic situations such their apartment, give directions, describe their first day in school, describe their first day at work etc. Learners will be introduced to some current affairs and social, artistic and cultural events and issues in Nigeria. One hour to be arranged.

MUSC 0640 Ghanaian Drumming and Dancing Ensemble

A dynamic introductory course on drumming, dancing, and singing of Ghana and the diaspora. Students learn to perform diverse types of African music, including Ewe, Akan, Ga, and Dagomba pieces on drums, bells, and shakers. No prerequisites. May be repeated for credit. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission required.

MUSC 1960 Advanced Ghanaian Drumming and Dancing Ensemble

Students with experience in African and related musical traditions perform drumming, dancing, and singing of Ghana and the diaspora. Focus on a more challenging repertoire with emphasis on multi-part, lead, and improvisational playing. Prerequisite: audition. May be repeatable for credit. Instructor permission required. Enrollment limited to 15 students.

POBS 0630A The nature of things: an object-oriented approach to Lusophone studies

This course addresses aspects of history, culture, politics, literature, and the arts in seven Portuguese-speaking countries: Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, and São Tomé and Príncipe. The course is designed to give students a hands-on approach to the study of Lusophone cultures: each week a country will be introduced by two objects paired with critical readings and short literary texts, music, or movies. We will be particularly mindful of objects that question and complicate the idea of “Lusophone,” against the backdrop of colonialism and postcolonialism, networks of design, production and consumption, extractivism and the environment, and creative industries. Conducted in Portuguese. Prerequistes: POBS 105 or POBS 0110 and POBS 0400 (or instructor’s permission)

LANG 0760: Language and Film Discourse in Africa

Africa is home to one of the biggest film industries in the world, Nollywood. In this course, we will watch and analyze selected scenes in films. We will examine the language used in films to express speech acts (that is, an utterance considered an action) such as advice, apologies, compliments, gratitude, greetings, refusals, requests, and sympathies. Moreover, we will analyze the linguistic, contextual, and social phenomena in African films made in African languages within the past five years. In addition, we will consider language, context, ideology, power relations, proverbs, political discourse, and medical discourse in the African film ecology.