This workshop course engages central debates in African studies and interrogates recent transformations in prevailing forms of law, politics, economy, and culture across Africa. In particular, it examines the shifting place of “Africa in the world,” alongside the rise of African economies as significant sites of growth on the global stage. According to the International Monetary Fund’s 2012 World Economic Outlook, 10 of the 20 countries projected to have the fastest economic growth for the period 2013-2017 are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Increasingly, Africa has been the site of new geopolitical struggles, contests over emerging markets, concerted efforts for constitutional reforms, and renewed “rushes” for land, minerals, oil, and other natural resources. Perhaps more than ever, Africa provides a particularly revelatory place for examination of contemporary challenges in law, policy, global governance, and social theory.
The course involves regular attendance and participation in Harvard’s African Studies Workshop, which meets weekly on Monday evenings throughout the semester under the general theme, “Africa and the World at Large: Or, What the New Global Order Has to Learn from the Contemporary African Experience.” The Workshop is an open, interdisciplinary exchange, attended by faculty and students from across Harvard and the broader Boston community. Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, leading anthropologists and social theorists based in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, convene these evening sessions. Invited guest speakers briefly introduce their workshop papers, which they have pre-circulated a week in advance. A formal discussant then provides commentary. After this, the floor is open for attendees to raise questions and offer reflections in an open dialogue with the presenter. Further information about this workshop is available here: http://africa.harvard.edu/african-studies-workshop/ .
In addition to participating in the weekly public workshops, HLS students will meet three times throughout the semester in closed sessions with the lecturer. In these sessions, we will discuss crosscutting themes in law and other disciplines featured in the various workshop papers. We also will read several short selections of canonical works in African studies in order to place the Workshop discussions in the context of central interdisciplinary debates. The range of Workshop papers and selected readings will allow for discussion of key features of colonialism, early postcolonial developmental states, and more recent neoliberal and post-Cold War transformations.
Students will have a choice of submitting either three shorter reflection papers throughout the semester or one long paper at the end of the term. Students also will be expected to read the pre-circulated papers each week and to submit two critical questions in advance of the Workshop meetings. Grades will be based on written work and class participation.
Note: The workshop will meet at FAS in Robinson Lower Library, in Harvard’s History Department.