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Not every course listed below is offered each semester. Check the Smith College Course Catalog for current course offerings.
Arts, Literature and Humanities
- ARH 130 Introduction to Art History: Africa, Oceania, and Indigenous Americas
This course examines how images and objects made by Africans, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans create meaning in both their original historical settings and those of Euro-American museums, galleries, and tourist sites. Among the materials we examine: Inca architecture from South America, sculpture and photography from West Africa and contemporary paintings from Australia. Over the semester we will study specific cultural traditions at particular historical monuments, visit museums and galleries and become familiar with academic and popular vocabularies and theories for discussing African, Oceanic and indigenous American arts. Enrollment limited to 40.
- CLT 205 Twentieth-Century Literatures of Africa
A study of the major writers of contemporary Africa. Focuses on several key questions: Is the term African literature a useful category? How do African writers challenge Western representations of Africa as they confront over a century of European colonialism on the continent? How do they represent the postcolonial experience on the continent? Is there a correlation in their writing between life and expression and between oral cultures and written literature? Texts will include Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between, Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, Mariama Bâ's, So Long a Letter, Ndebele Njabulo's The Cry of Winnie Mandela, Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy, Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman. We will also watch films such as Red Rubber, White King, Black Death, Totsi, and Kenya: Whiteman's Country.
- CLT 266 South African Literature and Film
A study of South African literatures and film since 1948 in their historical, social and political contexts. How do writers and filmmakers of different racial and political backgrounds remember and represent the past? How do race, class, gender and ethnicity shape the ways in which they use literature and cinema to confront and resist the racist apartheid state? How do literature, film and other texts function as complex cultural and political sites for understanding the interconnections among apartheid taxonomies, various forms of nationalisms and the often hollow post-apartheid discourse of non-racial "New South Africa"? Texts include testimonies from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, novels such as Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country, Mazisi Kunene's Mandela's Ego, Njabulo Ndebele's The Cry of Winnie Mandela, Nadine Gordimer's July's People, J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, Athol Fugard's Tsotsi and Zoe Wicomb's You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town. We will also analyze films such as Cry the Beloved Country, Sarafina!, Tsotsi, Cry Freedom and South Africa Belongs to Us.
- CLT 267 African Women's Drama
A study of contemporary drama by African women as a site of cultural expression and resistance in postcolonial Africa. We shall study the use of drama to expose and confront the realities of women's lives, to subvert dominant gender constructs and mock rigid power structures. How are aspects of performance in African oral traditions interwoven with elements of European drama? How are these playwrights' visions of social change both enabled and restricted by the ideological frameworks of nationalism? Readings, some translated from French, Swahili and other African languages, will include Ama Ata Aidoo's The Dilemma of a Ghost, Efua Sutherland's Edufa, Fatima Dike's The First South African, Nawal El Saadawi's Twelve Women in a Prison Cell, Osonye Tess Onwueme's Tell It to Women and Penina Mlama's Mother Pillar.
- CLT 271 Writing in Translation: Bilingualism in the Post-Colonial Novel
A study of bilingualism as a legacy of colonialism, as an expression of exile, and as a means of political and artistic transformation in recent texts from Africa and the Americas. We will consider how such writers as Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya), Assia Djebar (Algeria), Patrick Chamoiseau (Martinique), and Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/U.S.) assess the personal and political consequences of writing in the language of a former colonial power, and how they attempt to capture the esthetic and cultural tensions of bilingualism in their work.
- CLT 305 Studies in the Novel: The Modern African Novel: Texts and Issues
This course charts the evolution of the theme of reason and its limits in the European novel of the modern era. Beginning with an examination of humanist assumptions about the value of reason in Rabelais, the course will focus on the Central European novel of the 20th century, the age of "terminal paradoxes." Texts will include Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, Kafka's The Trial, Musil's Man without Qualities and Kundera's The Joke, The Farewell Party and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
- CLT 315 The Feminist Novel in Africa
We will examine how novels written by African women in post-independence Africa deal with the legacy of colonialism, cultural changes, and national reconstruction as they affect African women. Do African women's narratives treat gender in a self-conscious and oppositional way? How does the novel, in their hands, interweave African and Western narrative forms and for what purpose? Texts will include Ama Ata Aidoo's Changes: A Love Story, Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood, Mariama Bâ's Scarlet Song and Nawal el Saadawi's Two Women in One, and theoretical essays by contemporary African feminist theorists such as Obioma Nnaemeka, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie and Carole Boyce Davies.
- DAN 377 Interpretation and Analysis of African Dance
Topics course. This course is an exploration of the various dance styles, forms and Symbols attributed to the classical societies of Western Africa. The course will focus on the historical dance forms found in the Old Mali Empire, i.e. (Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea) as well as Benin and Ghana. Students will survey the history and view video examples mainly from the bight of Benin to the U.S., read available text that describe African form and African dance content, and explore the way dance is viewed by African Americans and Africans throughout the Diaspora.
- FRN 230 Women Writers of Africa and the Caribbean
A transition from language courses to more advanced courses in literature and culture. This course is designed to develop skills in expository writing and oral expression and to provide tools and vocabulary for critical thinking in French. Materials studied in the course include novels, films, essays, and cultural documents. Students may receive credit for only one section of FRN 230. Enrollment limited to 18. Prerequisite: FRN 220, or permission of the instructor. An introduction to works by contemporary women writers from francophone Africa and the Caribbean. Topics to be studied include colonialism, exile, motherhood, and intersections between class and gender. Our study of these works and of the French language will be informed by attention to the historical, political, and cultural circumstances of writing as a woman in a former French colony. Texts will include works by Mariama Bâ, Maryse Condé, Gis-le Pineau, and Myriam Warner-Vieyra.
- FRN 252 French Cinema: "Cities of Light: Urban Spaces in Francophone Film"
From Paris to Fort-de-France, Montreal to Dakar, we will study how various filmmakers from the francophone world present urban spaces as sites of conflict, solidarity, alienation and self-discovery. How do these portraits confirm or challenge the distinction between urban and non-urban? How does the image of the city shift for "insiders" and "outsiders"? Other topics to be discussed include immigration, colonialism, and globalization. Works by Sembene Ousmane, Denys Arcand, Mweze Ngangura, and Euzhan Palcy. Offered in French. Prerequisite: FRN 230, or permission of the instructor. Weekly required screenings. FRN 252 may be repeated for credit with another topic.
- FRN 392 Seminar: Locating "la francophonie"
What is the status of the French language today? What is its relationship to France's colonial past, to concepts of universalism and cultural difference, and to the shifting alliances created by immigration and globalization? Through the study of theoretical, political, and literary texts from Africa, the Caribbean and Europe, we will consider various uses and critiques of la Francophonie from the 1960s to the present. Readings will include works by Senghor, Beyala, Condé, Césaire and Sebbar.
- FYS 165 Childhood in African Literature
A study of childhood as an experience in the present and a transition into adulthood, and of the ways in which it is intimately tied to social, political and cultural histories, and to questions of self and national identity. How does the violence of colonialism and decolonization reframe our understanding of childhood innocence? How do African childhood narratives represent such rises as cultural alienation, loss of language, exile, and memory? How do competing national and cultural ideologies shape narratives of childhood? Texts include Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, Zoe Wicomb's You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town, Ngugi Wa Thiongo's Weep Not Child, and Tahar Ben Jelloun's The Sand Child.Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. WI
- MUS 220 Topics in World Music: African Popular Music
This course will focus on the role of women within Sub-Saharan African musical traditions. Relying on gender-specific ensembles as well as those involving male and female participants, we will examine how the musical activities of women as well as the organization and structure of performances reflect, reinforce or challenge African perspectives of gender and structures of power as defined in selected African societies. The course will cover both indigenous and modern musical idioms from different parts of Africa, including the Baganda of Uganda, the Akan of Ghana and the Yoruba of Nigeria. In addition, the emergence of strong female voices like those of Miriam Makeba (South Africa), Stella Chiweshe (Zimbabwe) and Oumou Sangare (Mali) in the twentieth century will provide the basis for examining how female musicians have addressed gender-related issues in their music and attempted to break gender boundaries within their respective societies. No previous musical experience is necessary; there are no prerequisites for this course.
- PHY 254 African Philosophy
This course will explore the debate as to whether traditional African beliefs should be used as the foundation of contemporary African philosophy; the relationship between tradition and modernity in colonial and postcolonial Africa; and the relationship between African and African-American beliefs and practices. In exploring this issue we will read selections from Africans (Mbiti, Senghor, Hountondji, Bodunrin, Wiredu, Appiah, Sodips, Eze), African-Americans (Blyden, Dubois, Mosley, Gates, Gilroy), Europeans (Levy-Bruhl, Tempels, Horton), and European-Americans (Crawford, Bernasconi, Janz).
- AFS 300 Capstone Colloquium African Studies
This interdisciplinary Capstone Colloquium allows students to share their interests in Africa through probing readings and vibrant discussions. Incorporating African Studies faculty from across the Five Colleges, the course will explore both western perceptions and lived experience in Africa through such themes as: African historiographies; governance and political conflict; development and environmental issues; health and society; African literature and the arts; and youth and popular culture. Students will be asked to write frequent short papers summarizing the different disciplinary approaches to the field. Prerequisites: at least three FC courses in African Studies and junior/senior standing; or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 20.
- AAS 218 History of South Africa (1600–1900)
The history of Southern Africa, which includes a number of states such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nambia, Angola and Lesotho, is very complex. In addition to developing an historical understanding of the Khoisan and Bantu-speaking peoples, students must also know the history of Europeans and Asians of the region. The focus of this course will therefore be to understand the historical, cultural and economic inter-relationships between various ethnic groups, cultures, and political forces which have evolved in Southern Africa since about 1600.
- AAS 370 Seminar: Modern Southern Africa
In 1994 South Africa underwent a "peaceful revolution" with the election of Nelson Mandela. This course is designed to study the historical events that led to this dramatic development in South Africa from 1948–2000.
- HST 101 Biography and History in Africa
Colloquia with a limited enrollment of 18 and surveys with enrollment limited to 40, both designed to introduce the study of history to students at the beginning level. Emphasis on the sources and methods of historical analysis. Recommended for all students with an interest in history and those considering a history major or minor. Fascinating in themselves, biographies also serve as a foundation to history. This course looks at biographies from Africa, both in print and in film presentations, assessing the lives represented as reflections of history in practice. Examples from many regions of Africa; from precolonial, colonial, and more recent periods; from women as well as men; and from common people as well as leaders. The course stresses writing skills as well as careful reading; writing includes short essays on the books read and critical reflections on the relationship of biography and history. Enrollment of 15 limited to first-years and sophomores.
- HST 256 Introduction to West African History
The political, economic, cultural, religious and colonial histories of Africa west of Lake Chad and south of the Sahara desert, a region nearly as large as the continental U.S. Draws on articles, films, biographies, novels, and plays, and explores broad cultural continuities, regional diversity, and historical change, from 1000 AD to the present. Topics include: the Sudanic Empires; slavery and the Atlantic slave trade; Islam; African initiatives under colonial rule; and post-colonial problems in West Africa.
- HST 257 East Africa in the 19th and 20th Centuries
A comparative introduction to the peoples of Tanzaia, Uganda, Kenya and surrounding areas. Topics include: the dynamics of pre-colonial cultures, ecologies and polities; the effects of the Indian Ocean slave trade; changing forms of Imperialism; local forms of resistance and accommodation to imperial power; nationalist struggles and decolonization; post-colonial crises and present challenges.
- HST 258 History of Central Africa
Focusing on the former Belgian colonies of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi from the late 1800s, this course seeks to explore, and then transcend, the powerful myths that adhere to this area of the world, the setting for Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." Topics include: precolonial cultural diversities; economic extraction in the Congo Free State; the colonial encounter and colonial experiences; decolonization and the struggles over defining the state; and postcolonial catastrophes.
- HST 299 Ecology and Imperialism in African History
The human species as an outgrowth of nature and simultaneously as a transformer of the physical world. European and African outlooks on nature, and their confrontations with the landscapes, climates, diseases, flora and fauna of
- ANT 230 Africa: Population, Health, and Environment Issues
This course looks at peoples and cultures of Africa with a focus on population, health, and environmental issues on the African continent. The course discusses the origin and growth of human populations, distribution and spread of language and ethnic groups, the variety in food production systems (foraging, fishing, pastoralism, agriculture, industrialism), demographic, health, environmental consequences of slavery, colonialism, and economic globalization, and contemporary problems of drought, famine, and AIDS in Africa. Prerequisite: ANT 130 or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 30.
- ANT 271 Globalization and Transnationalism in Africa
This course considers the shifting place of Africa in a global context from various perspectives. Our goal will be to understand the global connections and exclusions that constitute the African continent in the new millennium. We will explore topics such as historical connections, gender, popular culture, global economy, development, commodities, health and medicine, global institutions, violence and the body, the postcolonial state, religion, science and knowledge, migration and diaspora, the Internet and communications, and modernity. Prerequisites: ANT 130 or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 30.
- ANT 272 Women in Africa
This course will focus on the experiences and situations of women in contemporary Africa. We aim to interrogate and complicate both popular and scholarly representations that present African women as the West's "other." The course will be organized around various topics—such as marriage and family, economy and markets, health and reproduction, and politics and participation—and will present ethnographic insights from various locations on the African continent. Enrollment limited to 30.
- ANT 348 Seminar: Health in Africa
This seminar focuses on issues of demography, health, nutrition and disease on the African continent, contextualized in the social, economic and political activities of human populations. The course discusses the distribution and food production systems of human groups in particular environments, the incidence and prevalence of infectious diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, river blindness, measles and HIV/AIDS, and varying approaches to health care including traditional medicine and the availability of western treatment. Background in African studies or medical anthropology preferred.
- ECO 214 Economies of the Middle East and North Africa
An economic survey of the MENA region, applying development concepts such as the "rentier state," the "watchmaker" economy, export-led growth and import-substitution industrialization. Examples from countries across the region illustrate the themes of interaction with Western capitalism and the global economy and variations among patterns of economic transformation and growth. Topics include the importance of oil and capital flows, industrial and agrarian trends, the economic role of government, employment and the export of labor, human development, the Euro-Mediterranean and Gulf Cooperation Council initiatives, and the impact of Islamism. Prerequisite: either ECO 150 or 153.
- GOV 227 Contemporary African Politics
This survey course examines the ever-changing political and economic landscape of the African continent. The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the unique historical, economic and social variables that shape modern African politics, and will introduce students to various theoretical and analytical approaches to the study of Africa's political development. Central themes will include the ongoing processes of nation-building and democratization, the constitutional question, the international relations of Africa, issues of peace and security, and Africa's political economy. Enrollment limited to 35.
- GOV 232 Women and Politics in Africa
This course will explore the genesis and effects of political activism by women in Africa, which some believe represents a new African feminism, and its implications for state/civil society relations in contemporary Africa. Topics will include the historical effects of colonialism on the economic, social, and political roles of African women, the nature of urban/rural distinctions, and the diverse responses by women to the economic and political crises of postcolonial African polities. Case studies of specific African countries, with readings of novels and women's life histories as well as analyses by social scientists.
- GOV 233 Problems in Political Development
Why are so many states of the world poor and "underdeveloped"? What is the meaning of development, and how can it be achieved? Focusing on areas of Africa, Latin America and Asia, this course will explore the role of the state in development, institutions, actors and social movements which structure political interaction, and the relationship between democratization and development.
- GOV 321 Seminar: The Rwanda Genocide in Comparative Perspective
Rwanda was engulfed by violence that caused untold human suffering, left more than half a million people dead, and reverberated throughout the Central African region. Using a comparative perspective, this seminar explores parallels and contrasts between Rwanda and other cases of genocide and mass murder in the 20th century. Topics include the nature, causes and consequences of genocide in Rwanda, regional dynamics, the failure of the international community to intervene and efforts to promote justice through the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. We will also consider theories of genocide and their applicability to Rwanda, exploring comparisons with other cases such as the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the destruction of the Herero and war in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- GOV 347 Seminar: North Africa in the International System
This seminar examines the history and political economy of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria "the Maghreb" focusing on the post-independence era. Where relevant, Mauritania and Libya will be treated. The seminar sets Maghrebi politics in the broader context of its regional situation within the Mediterranean (Europe and the Middle East), as well as its relationship to sub-Saharan Africa and North America. Study is devoted to: 1) the independence struggle; 2) the colonial legacy; 3) contemporary political economy; and 4) post-colonial politics and society. Special attention will be devoted to the politics of Islam, the "status" of women and democratization.