This class explores the challenges of defining and implementing "development" in modern African history. We pay particular attention to how the history of globalization and HIV/AIDS has impacted Africa and has shaped the politics and practices of development. To what extent has the legacy of the slave trade shaped African societies? How was the slave trade linked to globalization and to Africa's place in the world system? How did European colonialism impact African societies and especially influence patterns of development? Did decolonization signify a rupture and a new beginning for Africans and their abilities to shape development? How did the wave of failed states in Africa following decolonization influence the scope for development? How has AIDS shaped the African continent and shaped the ways in which development is discussed and implemented.
A central part of the course, will be to think critically about the context and performance of development projects from microfinance to big construction projects. We will be concerned with examining the meanings of development and the humanitarian motivations that often undergird it. As part of the outcomes for this course, students will work in small groups to critically examine a development project in Africa and evaluate its successes and weaknesses. Readings for the course will be interdisciplinary and will be drawn from History, Political Science, Public Health, and Anthropology.
Director of the Center for African Studies and historian Richard Roberts will lead the discussions. Scholars from Political Science, Anthropology, African Studies, the School of Medicine, and the School of Engineering will augment our conversation with particular case studies drawn from their experiences in Africa. We will meet each morning to discuss the readings for the course, share lunch together, continue discussions into the early afternoon, and then spend late afternoons and evenings working on group projects under the guidance of the instructor. Student teams will present their evaluations of their development projects in a seminar setting on Friday.
Students will come away from this course with a heightened sense of the complexities of Africa and of the challenges of thinking about development and social change.