African Modernities: Popular Cultures in Twentieth Century Africa (HIH2224B)

StaffDr Stacey Hynd - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

You will need effective communication and analytical skills, oral and written, to complete many of your modules and in a job after you graduate.  This module aims to help you develop your skills in researching, interpreting, and analysing both primary and secondary material relating to twentieth-century Africa, and in reporting on your work.  It provides you with an opportunity to explore this area of history in more depth using a wide range of sources and explore broad historical themes such as modernity, postcolonialism, globalization and human rights. In this way it helps you to develop the depth of understanding you will require to study more specialised areas of history.  It will also give you an opportunity to work in a team on a group presentation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Be aware of the various developments in the history of twentieth century Africa.
  • 2. Make a close evaluation of the key developments and debates in African political, social and cultural histories.
  • 3. Evaluate the main themes in the subject and to collate information upon, and evaluate in greater detail, those aspects of the module discussed in seminar and especially those topics selected by students for their coursework.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse the key developments in popular culture in twentieth-century Africa.
  • 5. Collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 6. Interpret primary sources.
  • 7. Trace long-term as well as short-term historical developments.
  • 8. Recognise and deploy historical terminology correctly.
  • 9. Assess different approaches to historical writing in areas of controversy.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in oral seminar discussions
  • 11. Identify a topic, select, comprehend, and organise primary and secondary materials on that topic with little guidance
  • 12. Produce to a deadline and in examination conditions a coherent argument

Syllabus plan

Week 1           Introduction to Twentieth-Century African Cultures

Week 2            Colonialism and Urbanization

Week 3            Fun in the City: Alcohol, Sport and Leisure

Week 4            Gender and Sexuality

Week 5            Religious Lives: Islam and Christianity

Week 6            Cultures of Politics: Ethnicity, Democracy and Corruption 

Week 7            Images of Modernity: African Film {or alternative ‘Student Choice Lectures’}

Week 8            The Modernity of Witchcraft

Week 9            HIV/AIDS, Identity and Social protest

Week 10          Human Rights and Africa

Week 11          African Diasporas {or alternative ‘Student Choice Lectures’}

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Seminars; these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar and present on a given topic in groups of 4 on 4 occasions
Guided independent study22Web-based activities located on ELE - preparation for seminars and presentations
Guided independent study234Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan 500 words1-12Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay303000 words1-12Verbal and written
Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-12Written
Group presentation2025 minutes1-12Verbal and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (3000 words)1-12Referral/deferral period
ExamExam (2 questions in 2 hours)1-12Referral/deferral period
Group presentationScript as for individual presentation, equivalent to 10 minutes1-12Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Barber, Karin. Readings in African Popular Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).

Bayart, J. F. The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly, (Cambridge: Polity, 1994).

Deutsch, J.-G., Probst, P. & Schmidt, H. African Modernities (Oxford: James Currey, 1999).

Falola, Toyin. The Power of African Cultures (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2008)

Geschiere, Peter. The Modernity of Witchcraft: Politics and the Occult in Post-Colonial Africa (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997).

Geschiere, P., Meyer & Pels, P. Readings in Modernity in Africa (Oxford: James Currey, 2008)

Hodgson, D. and McCurdy, S. (eds.), ‘Wicked Women’ and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa (Oxford: James Currey, 2001).

Honwana, A. & de Boeck, F. (eds). Makers and Breakers: Children and Youth in Postcolonial Africa (London: African World Press, 2005).

Iliffe, John. The African AIDS Epidemic: A History (Oxford: James Currey, 2006).

Iliffe, John. Honour in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Martin, P. Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Nugent, P. Africa Since Independence (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Willis, Justin. Potent Brews: A Social History of Alcohol in East Africa, 1850-1999 (London: James Currey, 2002).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

University of Exeter, Ghana Collection, Old Library

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Africa, twentieth-century, colonial, postcolonial, politics, social, cultural