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Postgraduate Students in African Studies

Profiles of African Studies students with their input on the value of studying African Studies

Sam Clendenning-MPhil Student


During my enrolment as a MPhil student in the Department of African Studies, I have witnessed and directly benefited from the department’s many strengths: a commitment to rigorous and urgent academic work; the directive that students attempt to push boundaries rather than meet them; and staff dedicated not only to student advancement but to the advancement of the discipline as whole.I want to highlight a particular strength of the department: its ability to ensure that all students enter courses with a degree of shared knowledge and understanding. I have attended many classes at the University, and many have suffered from an imbalance in student expertise, which can lead to one-sided discussions. African Studies solves this with a simple yet elegant solution. Required courses such as “Problematising the Study of Africa” both introduce students to the discipline’s key debates and push them to engage with them (and the discipline as a whole) in a critical, self-reflexive manner. Students exit such courses with a shared knowledge of these central issues and a commitment to self-critique. This commonality produces confident participation in their future course, both inside and outside of the department. The students of African Studies, regardless of specific interests or expertise, share a foundation and set of critical tools that are applicable in a multitude of academic endeavours. I am happy to be in a department which values student confidence as much as student achievement.

Sam Clendenning is from Chicago, IL, USA, and completed his BA in Critical Theory and Social Justice at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He came to UCT to continue studying issues of justice and theory in a new setting, and chose the Department of African Studies due to its commitment to producing original, thorough, and engaged academic work. He is currently pursuing an MPhil, by coursework and dissertation.