POLSC325: African Politics

Course Syllabus for "POLSC325: African Politics"

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If you pick up almost any newspaper looking for information about Africa, you will likely encounter stories about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Malawi, riots in Tunisia, famine in Ethiopia, or environmental disaster in the Niger Delta—problems that journalists often link to dysfunctional government.  Based on such accounts, you might consider Africa to be a pretty bleak place!  However, these events highlight only one side of politics in Sub-Saharan Africa.  While some African countries face great struggles, others offer great hope. This course provides an overview of African politics in historical context, synthesizing material from traditional comparative politics and area studies courses that examine democratization, economic development, and identity politics.  This course also examines Africa’s position in a broader international framework by addressing conflict, political economy, and the processes of state division and integration. Seven units organize this course.  We have organized the beginning of this course (Units 1 and 2) historically with Unit 1 focusing on colonization.  Unit 2 reviews political development patterns in the post-colonial age, including the upheavals that led to an epidemic of weak and failed states.  Subsequent units take a more focused look at various dimensions of African society, politics, economics, and international relations.  The course concludes with an exploration of continent-wide challenges and the potential for an “African Renaissance.”

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Explain how colonialism and independence movements contributed to and shaped contemporary African statehood.
  • Identify the main causes and manifestations of state weakness in Africa.
  • Define underdevelopment and explain its causes in Africa.
  • Discuss the causes of civil conflict in Africa.
  • Apply knowledge of Africa’s history to explain current causes of crisis and the roles of different actors within the state and international communities.
  • Compare and contrast economically and politically successful states with those that are less successful, and identify the causes of this variation.
  • Identify and explain some of the major social, cultural, and economic challenges (such as HIV/AIDS) that contemporary African states face, as well as the role international actors play in addressing these challenges.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

    Have competency in the English language.

    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed the following courses from “The Core Program” of the Political Science major: POLSC101, POLSC211, and POLSC221.

Course Information

Welcome to POLSC325.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.
Course Designer: Mike Kuchinsky, Daniel Fikreyesus, and Ulrike Gutberlet
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Additionally, materials offered by various IGOs (i.e. African Union, United Nations, Southern African Development Community) and NGOs (i.e. Amnesty International, ONE, Green Belt Movement) are integrated throughout the course.  These materials are supplemented by a range of scholarly articles, audio and video clips, and other readings.
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  Politics and political science are intrinsically complex and integrate a myriad of social, economic, and cultural dynamics. Therefore, this course will require you to revisit previous units to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter.  This progression yields a more thorough understanding of political and socio-economic trends, patterns, and discontinuities in Sub-Saharan Africa.  You will also need to complete:

  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all of the materials in each unit.

In order to successfully complete this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you approximately 105 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These time advisories are approximate estimates; please feel free to work at your own pace. Also, the time advisories do not factor in the time you spend thinking about and reflecting on the material.
Nonetheless, the time advisories should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories, determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 17 hours.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 5 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.2 (a total of 2.75 hours) on Tuesday night; etc.
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.