Skip navigation

African Studies


Office: 100 Encina Commons, 615 Crothers Way
Mail Code: 94305-6045
Phone: (650) 497-7688
Web Site:

Courses offered by the Center for African Studies (CAS) are listed under the subject code AFRICAST on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.

The Center for African Studies coordinates an interdisciplinary program in African Studies for undergraduates and graduate students. The program seeks to enrich understanding of the interactions among the social, economic, cultural, historical, linguistic, genetic, geopolitical, ecological, and biomedical factors that shape and have shaped African societies. 

Courses in African Studies are offered by departments and programs throughout the University. Each year CAS sponsors a range of seminars and workshops to demonstrate to advanced undergraduates and graduate students how topics of current interest in African Studies are approached from different disciplinary perspectives.

Course offerings in African languages are also coordinated by the Center for African Studies. Along with regular courses in several levels of Arabic, Swahili, Xhosa, and Zulu, the center arranges with the African and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures Program in the Stanford Language Center to offer instruction in other African languages; in recent years, it has offered courses in Afrikaans, Amharic, Igbo, Kinyarwanda, Shona, Twi, Wolof, and Yoruba.

The Center for African Studies offers a master of arts degree for graduate students. Undergraduates and graduate students not pursuing the master's degree can specialize in African Studies under the arrangements described under the Undergraduate and Master's tabs.

Learning Outcomes (Graduate)

The purpose of the master's program is to further develop knowledge and skills in African Studies and to prepare students for a professional career or doctoral studies. This is achieved through completion of courses, in the primary field as well as related areas, and experience with independent work and specialization.

Undergraduate Programs in African Studies

Undergraduates may choose an African Studies focus from:

  1. A minor in African Studies offers students the ability to combine a focus on Africa with their major in any other discipline. This offers the students a strong regional specialization. For requirements see the "Minor in African Studies" section of this bulletin.
  2. A major in a traditionally defined academic department such as Anthropology, History, or Political Science. These departments afford ample opportunity to enroll in courses outside the major, leaving the student free to pursue the interdisciplinary study of Africa.
  3. Interdepartmental majors, such as African and African American Studies or International Relations, which offer coordinated and comprehensive interdisciplinary course sequences, permitting a concentration in African Studies.

Certificate in African Studies

Students may apply for a certificate in African Studies. Requirements for the certificate are the same as for the minor; however, students may double-count courses applied toward their major or graduate studies. The certificate in African Studies is issued by the Center for African Studies and will not appear on any University record, including the student’s transcript.  For more information and an application, contact the center.

Minor in African Studies

The Center for African Studies awards a minor in African Studies. Students majoring in any field qualify for this minor by meeting the following requirements:

  1. A minimum of 25 units of Africa-related courses. Students may not double-count courses for completing major and minor requirements.
  2. At least one quarter's exposure to a sub-Saharan African language. The Center for African Studies and the Special Languages Program may arrange instruction in any of several languages spoken in West, East, Central, and Southern Africa.
  3. One introductory course that deals with more than one region of Africa.
  4. A minimum 25-page research paper, with a focus on Africa. This paper may be an extension of a previous paper written for an African Studies course.
  5. A designated focus of study, either disciplinary or regional, through a three-course concentration.

Upon completion of requirements, final certification of the minor is made by the Center for African Studies and appears on the student's transcript.

Africa-Related Courses

Below is a sample of AFRICAST and related courses that may be counted toward the minor. Other courses may also fulfill the requirements. Please consult your African Studies minor adviser.

AFRICAST 142Challenging the Status Quo: Social Entrepreneurs Advancing Democracy, Development and Justice3-5
Related courses from other departments
AFRICAAM 30The Egyptians3-5
AFRICAAM 133Literature and Society in Africa and the Caribbean4
AMELANG 106AFirst-Year Swahili, First Quarter5
AMELANG 114ABeginning Afrikaans, First Quarter4
AMELANG 134AFirst-Year Igbo, First Quarter4
AMELANG 136AFirst-Year Xhosa, First Quarter4
AMELANG 180AFirst-Year Kinyarwanda, First Quarter4
AMELANG 187AFirst-Year Yoruba, First Quarter4
ANTHRO 140Ethnography of Africa3
ANTHRO 141BThe Anthropology of Bits and Bytes: Digital Media in the Developing World5
ANTHRO 185Medical Anthropology of Contemporary Africa5
DANCE 24Introduction to Dance in the African Diaspora4
HISTORY 248SColonial States and African Societies, Part I4-5
HISTORY 249SColonial States and African Societies, Part II4-5
MUSIC 186CMusic and the Postcolonial World3-4
OSPCPTWN 16South Africa Sites of Memory2
OSPCPTWN 24ATargeted Research Project in Community Health and Development3
OSPCPTWN 36The Archaeology of Southern African Hunter Gatherers4
OSPCPTWN 43Public and Community Health in Sub-Saharan Africa4
OSPCPTWN 44Negotiating Home, Citizenship and the South African City4
OSPCPTWN 51Urban Design and Development: Opportunities and Limitations of WDCCT 20144
OSPCPTWN 54Monuments and Memory2-4
OSPCPTWN 56HIV Policy Issues and Models3
POLISCI 11NThe Rwandan Genocide3
THINK 42Thinking through Africa: Perspectives on Wealth, Well-Being, and Development4

Graduate Study in African Studies

For those who wish to specialize in Africa at the graduate level, African Studies can be designated a field of concentration within the master's and doctoral programs of some academic departments. Students in such departments as Anthropology, History, Political Science, and Sociology, and in the School of Education, may declare African Studies as the area of specialization for their master's and Ph.D. thesis work. Some other departments, programs, and institutes such as the International Comparative Education Program also permit students to specialize in African Studies.

Financial Aid

The Center for African Studies (CAS) does not offer financial aid. However, CAS offers a variety of fellowship opportunities to Stanford graduate students of different levels and disciplines. The following is a partial list:

1. MA Fellowship: Partial funding for two incoming MA students in African Studies.

2. Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship for Field Research in Africa: 9-12 month dissertation field research fellowship for PhD candidates in H&S.

3. Summer Research and Language Fellowship: Graduate research fellowship; intensive African language fellowship for graduate and undergraduate students. 

Coterminal Bachelor's and Master of Arts in African Studies

The one-year master's program in African Studies is designed for students who have experience working, living, or studying in Africa, and little prior course work on the region.

Undergraduates at Stanford may apply for admission to the coterminal master's program in African Studies. Coterminal degree applications will only be accepted from students in their fourth year, meaning that the program must be completed in the fifth year. An exception can only be made for students who completed an honors thesis in their third year. For University coterminal degree program rules and application forms, see the Registrar web site. Requirements for the master's degree are summarized below.

The annual deadline for all applications, including coterminal and master's, is December 9. All applicants must submit an online application, including a 500-word statement of purpose, resume, 15-20 page double-spaced academic writing sample, three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and Graduate Record Examination scores. TOEFL scores are required of applicants for whom English is not their first language or who did not attend an undergraduate institution where English is the language of instruction. To apply online and for information on graduate admissions, see the Graduate Admissions web site.

Degree Requirements

University requirements for the master's degree are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.

The program requires completion of a minimum of 45 graduate units. Upon entering, each student is assigned a faculty adviser who works with the student to develop a customized program of study.

To receive the M.A. degree in African Studies, students must complete:

  1. Core Courses (15 units)

    Students must complete the core African Studies M.A. course, AFRICAST 301A , in Autumn Quarter. Students elect two additional graduate courses taught by African Studies academic council members and drawn from a list of approved courses. Students must also complete, AFRICAST 302 Research Workshop, in Spring Quarter, in which they present and discuss their research and research interests.
  2. Cognate Courses (10 units)

    A minimum of 10 units of graduate-level credit in two cognate courses from the following thematic clusters not chosen as the student's concentration field:
    1. culture and society
    2. health, well-being, and the environment
    3. political economy and security.
  3. Concentration Field (15 units)

    Students choose one area of specialization:
    1. culture and society
    2. health, well-being, and the environment
    3. political economy and security
    • Students also choose a group of three related elective courses for graduate credit from the cognate course listings or elsewhere in the Stanford curriculum in consultation with the student's adviser and with the approval of the CAS director. With approval, one introductory course may be substituted in a field such as advanced undergraduate biology or statistics for those interested in epidemic diseases or public health. The academic adviser, in agreement with faculty in the chosen field, guarantees that each set of courses forms part of a coherent program.
  4. Language Requirement

    Students take one year of training in an African language, usually at least 3 units per quarter, resulting in intermediate-level proficiency as measured by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) or comparable language acquisition standards. Students who have advanced proficiency in several African languages may fulfill this requirement by taking another European language spoken in Africa, such as French or Portuguese, or by taking a year-long sequence in Arabic. 
  5. Seminar Requirement

    Students enroll each quarter in AFRICAST 300 , 1 unit, in which guest scholars present lectures on African themes and topics.
  6. Thesis Option

    Students may elect to write a master's thesis; they may register for up to 10 units of thesis research under the guidance of an Academic Council member. Thesis units may be counted toward the electives within the concentration field unit requirements.
  7. Grade Requirements

    Courses to be counted toward the degree, except for AFRICAST 300 , must be taken for a letter grade and receive a grade of 'B' or higher.
In addition to AFRICAST courses, master's students will take Africa-related courses across departments and schools due to the interdisciplinary nature of the degree.The following list represents a small sample of courses that may be used to fulfill the requirements of the master's degree. To count toward the completion of the master's degree, courses should be taken at the graduate level and approved by the African Studies graduate adviser. 
Courses in AFRICAST
AFRICAST 209Running While Others Walk: African Perspectives on Development5
AFRICAST 212AIDS, Literacy, and Land: Foreign Aid and Development in Africa5
AFRICAST 238Conflict and Reconciliation in Africa: International Intervention3-5
Related Courses from Other Departments
AMELANG 106AFirst-Year Swahili, First Quarter5
AMELANG 114ABeginning Afrikaans, First Quarter4
AMELANG 134AFirst-Year Igbo, First Quarter4
AMELANG 136AFirst-Year Xhosa, First Quarter4
AMELANG 180AFirst-Year Kinyarwanda, First Quarter4
AMELANG 187AFirst-Year Yoruba, First Quarter4
ANTHRO 201Introduction to Cultural and Social Anthropology5
ANTHRO 247Nature, Culture, Heritage5
ANTHRO 372Urban Ecologies5
EDUC 202Introduction to Comparative and International Education4-5
HISTORY 383The New Global Economy, Oil and Origins of the Arab Spring4-5
IPS 213International Mediation and Civil Wars3-5
MUSIC 286CMusic and the Postcolonial World3-4
SURG 250Global Humanitarian Medicine1-2

Joint Degree Program in African Studies and Law

This joint degree program grants an M.A. degree in African Studies and a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree. It is designed to train students interested in a career in teaching, research, or the practice of law related to African legal affairs. Students must apply separately to the African Studies M.A. program and to the Stanford School of Law and be accepted by both. Completing this combined course of study requires approximately four academic years, depending on the student's background and level of training in African languages. A number of approved courses may be counted towards both degrees. For more information, see the "Joint Degree Programs" section of this bulletin and the Stanford Law School's web site. Students who have been accepted by both programs should consult with the departments to determine which courses can be double-counted.

Emeriti: David B. Abernethy, Ellen Jo Baron, John Baugh, Joan Bresnan, Susan Cashion, Sandra E. Drake, Peter Egbert, James. L. Gibbs, Jr., William B. Gould, Bruce F. Johnston, William R. Leben, Bruce Lusignan, Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi, Mary Polan, Hans N. Weiler, Sylvia Wynter

Director: Grant Parker, Richard Roberts

Professors: H. Samy Alim (Education), Jean-Marie Apostolidès (French), Michele Barry (Medicine), Joel Beinin (History), John Boothroyd (Microbiology and Immunology), James T. Campbell (History), Martin Carnoy (Education), Prudence L. Carter (Education), William H. Durham (Anthropology), Harry Elam (Drama), James Fearon (Political Science), James Ferguson (Anthropology), Shelley Goldman (Education), Terry Lynn Karl (Latin American Studies and Political Science), Richard Klein (Anthropology), David Laitin (Political Science), Yvonne Maldonado (Pediatrics), Lynn Meskell (Anthropology), Julie Parsonnet (Medicine and Health Research and Policy), John Rickford (Linguistics), Richard Roberts (History)

Associate Professors: Vincent Barletta (Comparative Literature and Iberian and Latin American Cultures), Alexandria B. Boehm (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Jenna Davis (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Paulla A. Ebron (Anthropology), Oliver Fringer (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Duana Fulwilley (Anthropology), Liisa Malkki (Anthropology), Grant Parker (Classics), Jeremy Weinstein (Political Science)

Assistant Professors: Eran Bendavid (General Internal Medicine), Katherine Casey (Political Economy), Pascaline Dupas (Economics), Vaughn Rasberry (English), Krish Seetah (Anthropology)

Professor (Research): David Katzenstein (School of Medicine), Cheryl Koopman (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences)

Professor (Teaching): Robert Siegel (Microbiology and Immunology)

Associate Professor (Clinical): Brian Blackburn (Infectious Diseases), Daryn Reicherter (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences), Hugh Brent Solvason (Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences)

Senior Lecturers: Khalil Barhoum (African and Middle Eastern Languages)

Lecturers: Kwame Assenyoh (African and Middle Eastern Languages), Byron Bland (Law), Jonathan Greenberg (Law), Alvan Ikoku (Comparative Literature), Ronald Jennings (Anthropology), Sarah Mkhonza (African and Middle Eastern Languages), Samuel Mukoma (African and Middle Eastern Languages), Jill Rosenthal (History), Ramzi Salti (African and Middle Eastern Languages), Timothy Stanton (Bing Overseas Studies)

Consulting Professors: Anne Firth-Murray (Human Biology), Joel Samoff (Center for African Studies)

Curators: Karen Fung (African Collection Curator, Green Library), Regina Roberts (Bibliographer, Green Library), Anna Lessenger Soland (Assistant Curator, Arts of Africa and the Americas, Cantor Arts Center)

Senior Research Fellows: Coit Blacker (Freeman Spogli Institute), Larry Diamond (Freeman Spogli Institute, Hoover Institution), Marcel Fafchamps (Freeman Spogli Institute), Helen Stacy (Freeman Spogli Institute), Stephen Stedman (Freeman Spogli Institute, Center for International Security and Cooperation)

Overseas Studies Courses in African Studies

The Bing Overseas Studies Program manages Stanford study abroad programs for Stanford undergraduates. Students should consult their department or program's student services office for applicability of Overseas Studies courses to a major or minor program.

The Bing Overseas Studies course search site displays courses, locations, and quarters relevant to specific majors.

For course descriptions and additional offerings, see the listings in the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses or Bing Overseas Studies.

OSPCPTWN 24ATargeted Research Project in Community Health and Development3
OSPCPTWN 36The Archaeology of Southern African Hunter Gatherers4
OSPCPTWN 44Negotiating Home, Citizenship and the South African City4
OSPCPTWN 54Monuments and Memory2-4
OSPCPTWN 56HIV Policy Issues and Models3


AFRICAST 72SI. Conflict in the Congo. 1-2 Unit.


AFRICAST 141A. Science, Technology, and Medicine in Africa. 4 Units.

Africa is often depicted as a place simply in need of science, technology, andnmedicine. This class will introduce students to the culture and politics of science innsub-Saharan Africa: to the diverse and rich traditions, histories and contemporarynpredicaments of knowledge practices on the continent. We will consider the rolenof science in the colonial period, covering the expansion of European empires intonAfrica and the forms of technical knowledge that colonial governments encountered, especially as they relate to health and the environment. We will examine the role of science at African independence and in international development work. Finally, we will discuss the techno-politics of medical training and research, resource extraction, and the internet in contemporary Africa. This course will provide some important background for those with an applied interest in Africa as well as provide an introduction to a growing area of scholarship. Course materials include historical and ethnographic works, as well as primary sources and films emphasizing scientific practice in the context of geopolitical relations of power and inequality.
Same as: ANTHRO 141A

AFRICAST 142. Challenging the Status Quo: Social Entrepreneurs Advancing Democracy, Development and Justice. 3-5 Units.

This seminar is part of a broader program on Social Entrepreneurship at CDDRL in partnership with the Haas Center for Public Service. It will use practice to better inform theory. Working with three visiting social entrepreneurs from developing and developed country contexts students will use case studies of successful and failed social change strategies to explore relationships between social entrepreneurship, gender, democracy, development and justice. It interrogates current definitions of democracy and development and explores how they can become more inclusive of marginalized populations. This is a service learning class in which students will learn by working on projects that support the social entrepreneurs' efforts to promote social change. Students should register for either 3 OR 5 units only. Students enrolled in the full 5 units will have a service-learning component along with the course. Students enrolled for 3 units will not complete the service-learning component. Limited enrollment. Attendance at the first class is mandatory in order to participate in service learning.
Same as: INTNLREL 142

AFRICAST 151. AIDS in Africa. 3 Units.

Medical, social, and political aspects of the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa including: biology, transmission, diagnosis,and treatment of HIV; mother-to-child transmission and breastfeeding; vaccines; community and activist responses to the HIV epidemic; economics of HIV treatment; governance and health; ethics in research and program implementation.

AFRICAST 199. Independent Study or Directed Reading. 1-5 Unit.

May be repeated for credit.

AFRICAST 209. Running While Others Walk: African Perspectives on Development. 5 Units.

Throughout the history of modern Africa, Africans have specified their desired future¿development, understood broadly¿and identified the major obstacles in achieving it. Debates about development have intensified in the post-colonial period, especially as African countries have replaced the leaders installed at independence. Amidst the general critique of the imposition of external values and rules, Africans have differed, sometimes sharply, on priorities, process, and programs. While for some the challenge is to catch up with development elsewhere, for others it is essential to leap ahead, to set the pace, to initiate a radical social, economic, and political transformation. To ground and extend the common approaches to studying development that emphasize economics and that rely largely on external commentators, we will explore African perspectives. Our major task will be a broad overview, sampling the analyses of Africa¿s intellectuals in several domains. Course participants will review, compare, and analyze major contributions, developing an understanding of contemporary intellectual currents.
Same as: AFRICAST 109

AFRICAST 212. AIDS, Literacy, and Land: Foreign Aid and Development in Africa. 5 Units.

Is foreign aid a solution? or a problem? Should there be more aid, less aid, or none at all? How do foreign aid and local initiatives intersect? A clinic in Uganda that addresses AIDS as a family and community problem. Multiple strategies in Tanzania to increase girls' schooling. These are imaginative and innovative approaches to pressing and contested policy challenges. We will examine several contentious issues in contemporary Africa, exploring their roots and the intense conflicts they engender, with special attention to foreign aid and the aid relationship. As African communities and countries work to shape their future, what are the foreign roles and what are their consequences?.
Same as: AFRICAAM 212, AFRICAST 112

AFRICAST 224. Memory and Heritage In South Africa Syllabus. 1 Unit.

The focus of this course is to provide a forum in which students examine the role of memory and heritage in South Africa. The course will include visiting speakers, discussion and other activities. The complex relationship between memory and heritage in South Africa will provide the basis for a series of broad conversations about citizenship, national reconciliation, memorialization, justice, modernity and heritage ethics.

AFRICAST 238. Conflict and Reconciliation in Africa: International Intervention. 3-5 Units.

This course will explore recent debates on the causes and structural terms of large-scale violence in Africa in the context of key contemporary models for reconciliation and transitional justice. Discussions will emphasize the broader international legal and political order each presupposes, and specifically whether their underlying reconstitution of rights and subjectivities are compatible with cultural, political or legal diversity. A historical assessment of the predominating Nuremberg paradigm of transitional justice¿structured around international military intervention and criminal trials based on international criminal courts¿will be contrasted with other regional models that engage with the challenges of the political reconciliation of formerly divided political communities. The necessity of understanding the specificities of both global and local historical and structural contexts will be examined with respect to various proposals for how to balance of balance concerns for both justice and peace. Readings will cover case studies from South Africa, Rwanda, DRC, northern Uganda, Sudan (including Darfur and South Sudan), Libya, Mali, and CAR.
Same as: AFRICAST 138, ANTHRO 138A, ANTHRO 238A

AFRICAST 299. Independent Study or Directed Reading. 1-10 Unit.


AFRICAST 302. Research Workshop. 1 Unit.

Required for African Studies master's students. Student presentations.