Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 x 4000 word essays  100%
Supplementary Assessment students are required to resit those elements of the module that they have not already passed  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1) critically evaluate the relevance of the theoretical literature on power and resistance for understanding African politics
2) explain the development and prevalence of neo-patrimonialism, clientelism & authoritarianism
on the continent, and the types of resistance they have produced
3) analyse and communicate the successes and limitations of various types of resistance movements
4) critically assess the extent to which recent transitions to democracy have transformed state-society
5) identify, describe and account for instances of conflict, state collapse and warlordism on the continent
6) analyse some of the ways in which global forces impact on domestic state-society relations
7) demonstrate grounded empirical knowledge of a range of specific case studies
8) develop appropriate research methods to study protest, power and resistance in Africa

Brief description

This module explores African politics and development through the contesation of power relations and forms of protest, based on the premise that it is trhrough the study of speciafic moments and sites of struggle that broader power relationships can be understood and contested. the module engages with theoretical leterature on African politics (ethnicity, neo-patrimonialism, development, democratisation etc) and the politics of resistance (Marx, Gramsci, Foucault, Scott, Tarrow, della Porta etc) through a case study approach, in which specific episodes and struggles are used as the starting point to raise broader questions of Africa's place within global politics, and the changing nature of the state-society relationship in Africa

All too often Africa is imagined and represented as an 'empty space' of international politics: the recipient of aid, the victim of proxy wars and structural adjustment, and wracked by ethnic conflict and venal corruption. These images tend to ignore or underplay the degree to which African individuals and groups exercise agency in international politics, often through forms of resistance, contestation and protest. Africa is not the passive victim of international politics, but rather is a contested site of power relationships, imagination, struggle and movements for development, democracy and security. Africa is a continent of dynamic changes, and economic, political and cultural transformations. This module opens up these understudied aspects of African politics through a number of key case studies, including Mau Mau in Kenya, Nyerere's ujamaa in Tanzania, Black Consciousness in South Africa, the civil war in Sierra Leone, trade unions and the pro-democracy movement in Zambia, and the Ogoni in Nigeria. Students are encouraged to research further case studies of other instances of protest and resistance in Africa. Each seminar will be grounded in a detailed exploration of the particulare case study, as well as considering borader themes and linking with contemporary African politics.

The central focus of the module is on the relationship between state and society, or between rulers and ruled. The module begins by examining theoretical concepts of relevance to this focus: the post-colonial state, civil society, social movement theory, subaltern studies, and power/knowledge. It then introduces key concepts in African studies: colonialism, neo-patrimonialism, ethnicity, class, warlordism, and democratisation. These concepts are explored further through engagement with the case studies. The overall aim is to consider the degree to which specific African protest and resistance movements have been able, at various times and in various places, to transform their state-society and local-global relationships.


1. Introduction: Power, Protest and Resistance
2. Key concepts in African Politics
3. Colonialism: Mau Mau in Kenya
4. Peasants: Ujamaa in Tanzania
5. Race: Black Consciousness in South Africa
6. Insurgency: The ANC abroad
7. Class: Trade Unions in Zambia
8. Patrimonialism: RUF in Sierra Leone
9. Environment: The Ogoni in Nigeria
10. African Renaissance: State-Society Relations Transformed?


This module is at CQFW Level 7