African Urban Cultures and Literatures of the City

This course approaches the study of African cities and urbanization through the medium of diverse texts, including fiction, non-fiction, graphic narratives and the arts, as well as scholarly work on African cities. Through these cultural “texts,” attention will be given to everyday conceptualizations of the body and the environment, as well as to theoretical engagements with the African city. We will study urban relationships as depicted in literature and popular media in relation to Africa’s long history of intercultural encounters, including materials dating back to the early twentieth century. With attention to these historical texts as well as to recent materials, the course will ask:

  • In what different ways is the city produced in African literature and popular culture, and how do these representations engage with prevailing models in African urban studies?
  • What theoretical lenses and interdisciplinary models of analysis are available to scholars to examine African city texts?
  • What social, political and economic questions are posed by African texts?

Requirements: Students are expected to attend all seminar meetings, to make substantive contributions to seminars. Written assignment: for Seniors if this course is fulfilling a writing requirement: one final paper of 25-30 pp (double-spaced, due Dec 11); for all other students, the option of 1 x mid-term (due Oct 23) and 1 x final paper (due Dec 11), each of 12-15pp (double-spaced).

Core Texts (alphabetical order):

Chris Abani, GraceLand (1st edn 2004; Picador, 2014) - $8.95

Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, Aya (Jonathan Cape, 2007) – out of print: plenty of copies second-hand on Amazon $1.97

Peter Abrahams, Mine Boy (1st edn. 1946; Heinemann, 1989) - $12.95

Brian Chikwava, Harare North (Vintage, 2010) - $12.95

Cyprian Ekwensi, Jagua Nana (1st edn. 1961; Heinemann, 1987; Yale University Library online book)

Okey Ndibe, Foreign Gods Inc (Soho Press, 2014) - $15.95

Deji Olukotun, After the Flare (The Unnamed Press, release: Sept 2017) - $16.95

Ivan Vladislavic, Double Negative (And Other Stories, 2013) - $15.95

Zoe Wicomb, You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town (The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2000) - $16.95

Total cost of books if purchased new: approx. $125.00


Also AFAM 446/AFST 424.

Undergraduate Course #: 
WR, Hu
20th/21st Century