Bachelor of Arts in African Languages and Cultures

Choosing African Studies means taking a leap off into the unknown and exploring new horizons. Nevertheless, many young people feel attracted by the African continent, its linguistic and cultural diversity, its role in world history and its participation in current global events.

Bachelor's Programme
3 year 180 credits
Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
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About the programme
Programme summary
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Postgraduate studies

What

Ghent University’s African Studies programme is unique in Belgium. Only at our university can you take the entire programme. Our study programme starts from an open, unbiased and critical view of the world. Some time ago, The Economist proclaimed Africa the ‘emerging continent’. While in public opinion, Africa might still all too easily be considered synonymous to bad tidings, specialists see promising signs of revival. In economic terms, Africa is the fastest-growing continent. Politically speaking, more and more African countries are outgrowing their colonial legacy by developing new forms of democracy and better governance. The average standard of living is improving. Generally speaking, war and disease have also subsided. It is obvious, however, that Africa still faces enormous challenges, cf. e.g. the uneven distribution of wealth and the ongoing fight against famine.  African families are shrinking, but altogether Africa’s population is still growing fast. In combination with other sources of instability, this causes increasing emigration. Africa, in other words, is coming to us and will continue to do so in the future. Expertise of the cultural, historical and linguistic uniqueness of our fellow citizens with an African background will therefore be a much-needed commodity in the West.

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For whom

No specific prior knowledge is required, but since you will be studying languages that differ greatly from Western European languages, a flair for languages is a must. Not prior knowledge but motivation is important when opting for African Studies. You are interested in Africa, and you would like to learn more about languages and cultures that are highly different from what you already know. You are willing to take an unbiased and critical view and you are interested in an academic approach to the languages and cultures of Africa.

Structure

  • Bachelor

The study programme is based on three cornerstones: African Languages, African Cultures, and Language, Culture and Society in Africa. The first year offers an introduction to the different themes. You take a number of general course units and you start with the study of African languages and cultures according to the three cornerstones. You start by learning one African language, Swahili, and you are introduced to African linguistics. You will become acquainted with the interaction between language, culture and society in Africa, and you will take introductory course units on anthropology, literature, geography and archaeology, and the history of Africa. In addition, we will introduce the methodological aspects of African Studies in a course unit on fieldwork. The second year encompasses a further exploration of the three cornerstones mentioned above. In addition to Swahili, you will learn Lingála and you will take course units on Language and History, Language Documentation and Description, and Anthropology and Ethnography in Africa. You will deepen your knowledge on African literatures, and learn how to set to work with sources. The two-yearly course unit Africa: Current Affairs, Discourse and Imaging furthers your knowledge of the relationship between language, culture and society (two-yearly course units are taught alternately in the second or third year). In the second year, you choose a minor, i.e. a set of course units to complement your basic training. In the third year you will continue with this minor, with Lingála and the two-yearly course unit Anthropology of Visual and Material Cultures in Africa. You will come into contact with theories on multiculturalism and religion. In addition, you will have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of elective course units, such as Arabic and Afrikaans. You finalize the third year with a research assignment that takes the form of a small dissertation, the so-called Bachelor’s paper. Tutoring notwithstanding, your ability to study independently will be called upon in this process. The third year also offers the opportunity of an ‘Africa Term’, during which you can spend one term at one our our African partner universities or at a European university with a strong African Studies Department.

  • Master

Completion of the Bachelor’s programme gives access to the African Studies Master’s programme. This is a one-year English-taught programme with a strong focus on the unique academic expertise within African Studies. Language, History and Identity; Literature, Media and the Arts; and Conflict and Society are the three thematic and interdisciplinary course units. There are also discipline-specific course units (African Anthropology, History and Current Affairs, Literature, Linguistics, Archaeology) and a number of elective course units. By means of the Master’s dissertation on a topic of your choice, you integrate the academic skills that you have acquired during your study programme.

Labour Market

The African Studies programme does not lead towards a specific profession. Surveys among alumni show that most students find a job soon after graduation. Most of them actually apply their knowledge of Africa in their jobs. Our graduates end up in the integration and diversity sector, tourism, the socio-cultural sector, the business world, the government or foreign aid sector, and in academic research.