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2013 Global Seminar


African Cities: Their Pasts and Futures


“African Cities: Their Pasts and Futures” will be taught in Accra, Ghana, from June 17 to July 26, 2013. The course is led by Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English.

To understand Africa, one must come to terms with its cities, their histories, their cultures, and their subjects. By 2020, according to the Dutch architect, Rem Koolhass, “63% of its population will live in cities . . . 50 million people will move to West African cities” This course aims to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of this phenomenon. Focusing on three Ghanaian cities—Accra, Cape Coast, and Kumasi—the seminar will trace the development of these urban centers from the earliest times to the present and explore the complicated cultural encounters that have given them distinct identities. Drawing on theories from history and anthropology, literature and cultural studies, political economy and urban studies, the seminar will explore some of the central questions in the study of the urban experience: What constitutes the space of the city in Africa? How do writers and filmmakers imagine cities? Why and how do cities emerge in specific places? What are the challenges facing African cities in the age of globalization?
Based in Accra, students will immerse themselves in the life of the city, mapping out its social and cultural geography, trying to understand the invisible structures that define it. Weekend tours to Elmina, Cape Coast, and Kumasi, will introduce students to the rich history and culture of the West African coast from the period of slavery to the present.
The seminar features daily instruction in Twi, the main language of Ghana; weekly guest speakers and films; and community service.
This course fulfills the Literature and the Arts (LA) requirement and is open to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Admission is by application and an interview.

Throughout the Aspire campaign a number of alumni and friends generously supported the Global Seminars.