Spring 2020 - IS 323 D500

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues and Understandings (4)

Class Number: 7516

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    HCC 1530, Vancouver

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Survey course of major contemporary issues relevant to people's lives in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as major debates about these. Study of the historic, economic, political, social and cultural factors contributing to contemporary realities and perspectives. Relevant for students with little to significant familiarity with life in Africa.


There are a few long-standing meta-narratives about Africa that problematically reduce the complexity and diversity of experiences that run across time and place as if ‘Africa’ could be known as one place, one history, one reality. This course is not designed to provide a new meta-narrative. Rather, it is designed to provide access points for considering multiple, dynamic, open-ended trajectories relevant to contemporary African societies and their possible futures. In Spring 2020, we will use the access points of: youth; urbanization; global linkages; and future forecasts. Through each of these access points, we will consider how change has been understood in terms of explanatory logics (i.e. what has spurred change) as well as normative judgements of how lives have changed and will change. We will read across academic disciplines as well as incorporate literary fiction, journalism, policy, and other resources.


• To broaden and deepen students’ knowledge of contemporary social, political, economic, cultural, and ecological conditions affecting possibilities for life across different parts of Africa.
• To enhance students’ understanding and critical analysis of theories of drivers of change in recent histories and contemporary contexts of Africa, and especially those associated with demography and migration, imperialism and neoliberalism, globalized ecological risks, and epistemic and cultural innovation.
• To critically evaluate Africa’s roles (material and epistemic) in international affairs
• To consider theories and evaluations of social change from multiple perspectives, and especially African perspectives


  • In-class participation 10%
  • Issue tracking 10%
  • Group book review 20%
  • Major essay 30%
  • Take-home exam 30%


Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.



The course’s customized set of required readings will be made available as electronic resources through SFU Library. Students should expect to read between 40 and 75 pages (e.g. 3 journal articles or book chapters) each week.

Book Selection (*reading groups for each to be assigned in week 2, each book will be available in electronic form through SFU Library, students may also choose to order their own copy):
• Honwana, Alcinda. 2012. The Time of Youth: Work, Social Change, and Politics in Africa.
• Richards, Paul. 1996. Fighting for the Rainforest: War, Youth & Resources in Sierra Leone.
• Masquelier, Adeline. 2018. Fada: Boredom and Belonging in Niger.
• Mutongi, Kenda. 2017. Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi. • Cole, Teju. 2007. Everyday is for the Thief.
• Steinbeck, Jonny. 2015 A Man of Good Hope.
• Rodney, Walter. 1972. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
• Sneyd, Adam. 2016. Cotton.
• Ferguson, James. 1999. Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt.
• Piot, Charles. 2010. Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html