Graduate students only
This graduate seminar provides a setting for participants to consider Africa – as an idea, a field of study, a place in the world, a subject for teaching – from a multi-disciplinary perspective. It is available to graduate students as African Cultural Studies 983, Anthropology 983, Economics 983, Geography 983, History 983, or Political Science 983.
This semester, the course will focus on the concept of “agency” in order to consider not just what to think about the history, cultures, and politics of Africa but also how to think and teach about this part of the world in a politically-, ethically-, and theoretically-informed way. While some “Africanist” scholarship has emphasized the structural conditions that limit the choices of African people—wherever they find themselves in the world—other scholarship has emphasized the choices that people have made in spite of, or within, various structural conditions. Some scholarship claims to recover or restore the agency of Africans within academic discourse. Yet still other scholarship assumes the agency of all people and focuses on the scope and scale of their choices in various times and places.
Students in this seminar will read and discuss several key texts that have tackled the question of agency in order to refine their own understanding of the question and apply it to their own research and teaching. The semester will culminate in the composition and presentation of student research papers in which various answers to the question of agency are explored.
Examples of Course Readings
Books (some containing only selected course readings)
- Andrew Apter, Beyond Words
- de Bruijn, van Dijk, and Gewald, Strength Beyond Structure
- Jean Comaroff, Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance
- Naminata Diabate, Naked Agency
- Eddie S. Glaude, In a Shade of Blue
- Sharon R. Krause, Freedom Beyond Sovereignty
- Lorand Matory, The Fetish Revisited
- Laura M. Ahearn, “Language and Agency”
- Anita Chari, “Exceeding Recognition”
- Chipaike and Knowledge, “The Question of African Agency in International Relations”
- Rudolf P. Gaudio, “Acting Like Women, Acted Upon: Gender and Agency in Hausa Sexual Narratives”
- Walter Johnson, “On Agency”
- Fredrick Cooper, “Possibility and Constraint: African Independence in Historical Perspective”
- Saba Mahmood, “Agency, Performativity, and the Feminist Subject”
- Achille Mbembe: “Necropolitics”
- Lynn M. Thomas, “Historicizing Agency”