Undergraduate Major and Minor in African Studies


The undergraduate program in African Studies is an interdisciplinary program that offers students the opportunity to explore the historic and cultural diversity of sub-Saharan African societies.

On the intellectual level, a major/minor in African Studies provides an understanding of the dynamics of this continent's social, political, and economic systems and insights into the profound impact of African societies on many countries in Europe, the Near East, and particularly North and South America and the Caribbean. On the practical level, a major/minor in African Studies provides the necessary background for careers in education, government, international agencies, development organizations, public affairs, and business, or for scholarly research.

African Studies course offerings are included in the departments/schools of Anthropology, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, City and Regional Planning, Economics, Education, English, Folklore, History, History and Sociology of Science, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Sociology and the Penn Language Center. Penn undergraduates also may take for major or minor credit, any African Studies courses offered at Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore colleges.


Minimum Requirement 16 c.u.

1. The study of an African language is a fundamental part of the major. Each student is required to take a sequence of two years (4 c.u.) of an African language.

2. Preferably in the freshman or sophomore year, but no later than the junior year, each major is required to take an Introduction to African Studies proseminar (1 c.u.). Topics vary from year to year.

3. Students are required to take ten (10 c.u.) additional Africa-focused or Africa- related courses, choosing between a humanities or a social sciences emphasis or giving equal emphasis to each of them. A humanities emphasis requires six courses (6 c.u.) on African subjects that are offered in at least two departments such as folklore, history, linguistics, literature (comparative literature, English, French), and four courses (4 c.u.) that are offered in two of the following departments: anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology. A social sciences emphasis reverses the proportions. Only two Africa-related courses are allowed.

4. Students are required to write a senior thesis (1 c.u.) on an African subject under the supervision of an African Studies faculty member.


Minimum Requirement 7 c.u.

1. Each minor is required to take the Introduction to African Studies proseminar (1 c.u.). Topics vary from year to year.

2. Students are required to take six (6 c.u.) additional Africa-focused or Africa- related courses. They should be divided proportionately between the humanities and the social sciences, depending upon the emphasis each student chooses. Ideally four (4 c.u.) courses will be devoted to the area of emphasis and two (2 c.u.) from the other area. Only one Africa-Related course will be allowed.

3. Writing a senior thesis (1 c.u.) under the supervision of an African Studies faculty member will be optional for students who minor in African Studies.


The University of Pennsylvania has an established study abroad program with an African university. In order to enrich their African experience students are encouraged, though not required, to spend a semester or summer studying in this program. The courses taken there are subject to careful review of the advisory committee by the study abroad program. Students are encouraged to have other travel, volunteer, or work experiences in Africa as well.

All students who wish to become a major or minor in African Studies should seek the advice of the chair; a faculty advisor will then be selected according to a student's specific interests.


Chair: Professor Sandra T. Barnes (Anthropology)

Professors & Lecturers: Roger Abrahams (Folklore and Folklife), Houston Baker (English), Sandra Barnes (African Studies), Jere Behrman (Economics), Dan Ben-Amos (Folklore & Folklife), Mark Bernstein (City & Regional Planning), Tom Callaghy (Political Science), Lee Cassanelli (History), Doug Ewbank (Population Studies-Africa), Renee Fox (Sociology), Thabisile Hlatshwayo (Nursing), Marja Hoek-Smit (City & Regional Planning), Richard Hosier (International Development), Rebecca Huss-Ashmore (Anthropology), Igor Kopytoff (Anthropology), Henrika Kuklick (History and Sociology of Science), Alan Mann (Anthropology), Achille Mbembe (History), Antonio McDaniel[a.k.a. Tukufu Zuberi] (Demography and Sociology), Lioba Moshi (Visiting Professor 1994-95), Lydie Moudileno (French), David O'Connor (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), Howard Pack (City and Regional Planning), John Roberts (Folklore and Folklife), Louise Shoemaker (Social Work), David Silverman (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), Etienne Van de Walle (Demography), Dan Wagner (Education), Joseph Washington (Religious Studies).