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Undergraduate courses

African Political Economy (AXL 3200F)

Course Convenor: Dr June Bam-Hutchison

Lecturers: Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza & Dr June Bam-Hutchison

Download course outline for 2019 in PDF format

What is the course about?

This third year level course aims to introduce students to critical debates in the political economy of Africa, with specific reference to Sub-Saharan Africa. It focuses on a particular debate that can be traced to Giovanni Arrighi’s critique of the classical model as articulated by Arthur Lewis. The debate was taken a step further by a group of white South Africans, who had received their training in Britain and Europe. They developed a strongly Marxist theory under the theme of “articulation of modes of production”. There was also a group of African and Latin American scholars that got involved in the debate, with a focus on the rest of the global South.

At the heart of these debates was Archie Mafeje. In the early 1980s, he embarked on a thoroughgoing critique of the South African Marxist scholars. Mafeje later extended his critique to African and Latin American scholars with Marxist leanings. Not only did he subject this scholarship to a searching critique, he also explored alternative ways of theorization that would take into account the material conditions of Africa.

Students will engage with these debates, paying particular attention to a critical examination of Mafeje’s contribution.

What are the learning outcomes for students?

a. Students will be exposed to critical debates concerning the political economy of Africa.They will get a clear understanding of Arthur Lewis' classical model of development and Giovanni Arrighi's critique of this model.

b. Students will be exposed to the contribution of South African scholars and African scholar (Samir Amin) to this debate and be able to understand and analyze  the "articulation of modes of production" position.

c. Students will be exposed to one of the foremost African thinkers, Archie Mafeje, whose work remains hidden in South African scholarship. They will be expected to understand and analyze Mafeje's work in the context of contemporary South Africa, and be able to apply his theories to current debates.

d. Students will acquire a critical perspective on Eurocentrism in the present curriculum and obtain the necessary skills to interrogate curricula across educational instutions.

e. Students will gain a solid grasp of Afrocentric approaches to knowledge, and begin to formulate such approaches themselves.


Coursework: two extended essays (3000 words each, 20% each); tutorial assignments (10%)

Exam Essay: 50%

Lectures & Tutorials

2 lectures per week

1 combined  tutorial & workshop session per week