African Studies Immersion

Overview for African Studies Immersion

The immersion in African studies enables students to gain knowledge about African societies, cultures, histories, and modern political realities, and diasporic communities in different parts of the world.

Notes about this immersion:

  • This immersion is closed to students who are majoring in international and global studies who have chosen a specialization in African studies.
  • Students are required to complete at least one course at the 300-level or above as part of the immersion.

The plan code for African Studies Immersion is AFRICA-IM.

Curriculum for 2023-2024 for African Studies Immersion

Current Students: See Curriculum Requirements

Choose three of the following:
 Regional Archaeology�
Since the first humans set out from Africa nearly two million years ago, our ancestors and relatives managed to settle in almost every continent. Wherever they went, they left traces of their lives that are tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years deep. We call these traces the archaeological record. Almost everywhere our ancestors settled, they did many of the same things, such as inventing agriculture, cities, writing, and state-level societies. However, they did this in ways unique to each region and time. This course examines the archaeology of a specific region, such as the Middle East, Mesoamerica, North America, or East Asia, in detail. We examine the geography, culture, archaeological record, and significance of the region to various key themes in archaeological research with respect to other world regions. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Global Islam
This course examines the spread of Islam beyond its origins in the Middle East, and the cultural and social clashes, but also the mutual adjustments that have followed. This course explores core tenets of Islam, but also how its practices and beliefs are altered as practitioners in different countries alternately adopt, co-opt, massage, react to, and reject elements in accordance with the meaningful social, cultural, and political lives they build for themselves. The compatibility of Islam with Western society is often debated in contemporary public discourse. This debate is typically marked by an assumption that Islamic beliefs clash with Western secular democratic ideals, an assumption which results in tensions over mosque building, headscarves, and other public signs of Islamic faith. We will explore the diverse ways of being Muslim from a cross-cultural perspective and the sometimes-challenging negotiation of fulfilling these religious tenets while living in Muslim-minority places. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 African Film
This course considers the diversity, contours and synergies of African films and filmmaking, traversing the continent to view films from Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Egypt and Mali. Though much scholarship has focused on influential African filmmakers and nationally located cinemas, the straight-to-video systems of the 1980s and 1990s had a profound impact on African films and filmmaking. Nollywood and other video film industries began to dominate film production and transnational mobility, influencing new film technologies and industries, accessibility and addressability across the globe. Topics in this course include the influence of African film directors on filmmaking, and critical developments in major industries; Nollywood and beyond, and the cultural aesthetics, politics and economics that affect their global mobility and popular appeal; postcolonial identities and power; music and oral traditions of storytelling; didactic, post-colonial cinema with moral, political missions vs. ‘arthouse’ approaches; Afrofuturist and speculative cinema; channels such as African Magic that are shown in more than 50 African countries; and the effects of video streaming on global stardom and popularity. Students will learn about diverse African films and approaches to filmmaking, and the vibrant people and creative cultures that make up these film industries. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
Genocide and Transitional Justice
The destruction and survival of societies hinges on collective ideas of identity. In times of social stress, identities—whether racial, ethnic, religious or national—become critical “sites” of conflict over the sovereignty of nation-states, and the legitimacy of social, cultural practices. When ideas fail to incorporate people, essentialist categories of identity, historical grievances, and accounts of extreme violence become interrelated, potent sources of destruction. Slavery and exclusive ownership of resources leave people starving or living in perilously polluted environments. Global cultural economies threaten local systems and self-representation. In this course, we will take critical, anthropological approaches to studies of ethnocide, genocide and transitional justice. Students will assess the destruction and survival of societies, from the 19th century slaughter of Native Americans and Amazonian Indians to more recent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, the Sudan, Iraq, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China. Students will consider similarities and differences in the social experiences of mass violence, and the ethics of protecting particular identity-based groups, and not others, in international, national and local laws. Students will become familiar with multiple inter-related justice systems, for instance, the International Criminal Court, national and United Nations-backed tribunals, and local justice systems such as the Rwandan Gacaca courts. Recent developments in legal ethics and international law will enable students to see how public sentiments, legal advocacy and other social, political processes facilitate enhanced protections for the world’s most vulnerable people. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Culture and Politics in the Middle East
With a focus on everyday life in families, communities, and nations, we examine the diverse cultures and peoples of the Middle East in the context of political and economic forces that have shaped their lives in the past and present. We examine European colonialism and its modern-day legacies, including ethnic inequalities, economic vulnerability, labor migration, urbanism, and social unrest. We look at how art, music, oral traditions, and literatures have engaged critically with the forces of political change and neo-colonialism. We consider political activism, religious diversity, changing experiences and expectations of women and men, rebellion, revolution, and war, and the impacts of and creative responses to globalization. The cultural, political, social, and religious dynamics of Middle Eastern peoples will be discussed from a humanistic perspective. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Visual Anthropology
We see others as we imagine them to be, in terms of our values, not as they see themselves. This course examines ways in which we understand and represent the reality of others through visual media, across the boundaries of culture, gender, and race. It considers how and why visual media can be used to represent or to distort the world around us. Pictorial media, in particular ethnographic film and photography, are analyzed to document the ways in which indigenous and native peoples in different parts of the world have been represented and imagined by anthropologists and western popular culture. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Topics in Anthropology §
This topics course focuses on specific themes or issues in anthropology, chosen by the instructor, vetted by the department chair, announced in the course subtitle on SIS, and developed in the syllabus. The topics of this course will vary, but the course number will remain the same. Students may not repeat the same topic. Seminar 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Global Literature‡
This course presents a study of global literature by engaging in critically informed analysis of texts from different geographical regions or cultural perspectives. Students will discover new modes for thinking about what global literature is, and how globalizing impulses have changed and shaped our world. One of the goals of the class is to analyze and discuss the works in their respective socio-historical contexts, with a special focus on the theme of encounter or contact zones. The impact of various factors such as migration, nationality, class, race, gender, generation, and religion will also be taken into consideration. The course can be repeated up to two times, for 6 semester credit hours, as long as the topics are different. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 African-American Literature
Students will explore the landscape of African-American literature, and learn of its development throughout the 19th and/or 20th Centuries. From Phyllis Wheatley, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ida B. Wells to Toni Morrison, from the Harlem Renaissance, and the Black Arts Movements of the 1960s to Hip-Hop this course will explore African-American writers who inspired a civil rights and cultural revolution. Through writing, reading and research, they will grow to understand how, despite legal limits on freedom and social participation imposed because of their color in American society, blacks created styles of verbal and written expressions unique within the American experience and contributed to the shape, growth and development of the nation's literary character. (Prerequisites: ENGL-150 or completion of First Year Writing (FYW) requirement or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
 American Slavery and Freedom
This class will survey the history of slavery and freedom in the United States from the establishment of global slave systems in the colonial period through emancipation movements during the Civil War era. Students will examine key economic, political, and social issues (from the development of slave labor systems to strategies of resistance among enslaved peoples) as well as the meaning of black freedom struggles during key eras (such as the American Revolutionary era and Civil War). Lecture 3 (Fall).
Black America-Culture & HipHop
This course examines the historical and contemporary conditions of Blacks in the U.S. We will explore African American culture as it is perceived by many African-Americans, and consider theoretical concepts related to immigration and the segmented assimilation of Black immigrant groups coming into the U.S. We will also address identity politics as it relates to race, class, and gender, oppression, as well as the art products that originate in Black communities. A particular emphasis will be placed on Hip Hop music, dance, and style as an expression of Black culture, identity, activism, and social influence (both nationally and globally). Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Minority Group Relations
The course will provide a context in which to examine the multiple and contradictory social relations of domination, subordination, resistance, and empowerment. The kinds of questions we will explore focus on how power, knowledge, meaning, and cultural representation are organized. We will analyze a variety of political and ideological themes which bear upon the formation of minority group relations, their identity and how these themes complicate the processes by which people construct their understanding of the nation, world, of others, and themselves. Through reflection on theoretical texts and fictional works, as well as film and other popular media, we will consider for ourselves how culture is differently represented and signified, and how the politics of understanding and misunderstanding minority relations work through practices within and outside cultural institutions. Lecture 3 (Fa/sp/su).
 Urban (In)Justice
With a focus on forms of (in)justice in urban communities worldwide, we investigate the impact of race, class, and gender and related systems of unequal power relations on perpetuating patterns of social, political, economic, and environmental oppression (policing, hunger, pollution, violence, disease). How do ways of governing urban populations affect the lives of inner city residents and their demands for justice when attempting to navigate the everyday urban worlds? Specific course topics include both historical and contemporary perspectives on urban (in)justice locally, in Rochester NY, and nationally, across the U.S., and in a global comparative framework. Thereby the effects of crime, violence, and inequality on people in urban neighborhoods are also examined among and within nations. By the end of the semester, students should be able to identify and explain various theories that seek to explain (in)justice patterns in the urban context at local, national and global levels. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Topics in Sociology §
This topics course focuses on specific themes or issues in sociology, chosen by the instructor, vetted by the department chair, announced in the course subtitle on SIS, and developed in the syllabus. The topics of this course will vary, but the course number will remain the same. Students may repeat the course for credit, but may not repeat a topic. Seminar 3 (Fall, Spring).

† Course may be used when the topic focuses on the Middle East.

‡ Course may be used when the topic focuses on Caribbean Literature.

§ Course may be used when topic is relevant to African Studies.

* ANTH-275 and ANTH-365 are exclusively offered at and through RIT global campuses.