21G.026 | Spring 2018 | Undergraduate

Global Africa: Creative Cultures


Reading Responses

You will write a 300-word response to the readings for each session. These posts are due by MIDNIGHT the day before class. Your responses will engage critically with the upcoming session’s readings, summarizing the questions they raise and key arguments, how the pieces relate to one another, what remains unclear or leaves you perplexed, what you disagree with, etc. I ask that you find current examples—current events, music, images, news articles, films—with which to think through the readings: either as illustrations, or counterexamples, or as openings onto new directions. Your responses will not only help you synthesize and integrate the readings for your own learning, but also serve as the starting point for our in-class discussions and create an archive of our work as a class over the course of the semester. You will be exempted for one of the 10 required responses during the semester without penalty.

Student Examples

Reflection 4: The Politics of Representation (PDF)

Reflection 6: Value and Authenticity (PDF)

Reflection 7: The Duty of the African Writer? (PDF)

Reflection 9: Science and Technology in and from Africa (PDF)

The examples above appear courtesy of an MIT student and are anonymous by request.


You will write a 5-page paper that will be due during Session 7. You will bring the analytical tools we have discussed in class to bear on the analysis of one of two forms of cultural production from or about Africa and articulate an argument about the social or political dynamics playing out through and around this cultural object. The assignment will offer you an opportunity to consolidate your understanding of the concepts we will have covered until then, and allow you to practice formulating arguments.

For more information, see Paper Assignment Guidelines.

Final Project

Over the course of the semester, you will develop a final project examining how Africa’s place in the world is negotiated through creative production. This project will be a chance for you to engage creative practice yourself to engage with some of the themes of the class. You will design a project (e.g. video, web-based installation, photography project, creative writing, etc.) and write up a short companion discussion (2-3 pages), in which you lay out how your project engages with theoretical concepts, case studies, and readings discussed in the course.

A prospectus of your final project is due during Session 8, 4 weeks before the project’s due date (Session 12), and you will also give a 10-minute presentation of your project during Session11, where your peers and the instructor will have a chance to offer feedback before you finalize the project. I encourage you to work in groups!

Student Example

“The Price of Love” (PDF - 5.4MB) by Nwamaka Amobi and Gabrielle S. Ballard. Used with permission.

The prospectus for your final project should be 1 page long and include the following information:

  • Project title
  • Project description
    • Research question your project addresses (be as narrow as possible in your focus)
    • Description of the object you will create
    • Argument your project makes/what it shows
    • How your project relates to the overall subject of the course and to themes discussed so far
  • Proposed research methodology
    • How will you collect data/gather information for your paper (e.g. literature review, interviews, social media data gathering, etc.)?
    • What data will you collect? (e.g. for interviews, who will you interview, what questions will you be asking?)

For the past few weeks, we have been thinking through how “‘Africa’ as a place-in-the-world” (Ferguson 2006, 4) is negotiated through various material and visual forms and the creative practices that bring them into being. In Unit 1, we discussed how the body is an important site for the performance of social selves and social status, whether through performance arts, like dance class, or the everyday performances of dress choices. In Unit 2, we considered how power can be read in the production and circulation of various sorts of images, from ethnographic portraits, to personal portraits, to photo novels, to various genres of film, as well as in the images themselves.

For this paper, I would like for you to bring the issues that we have been tackling to bear on the analysis of Ng’endo Mukii’s documentary-animation, Yellow Fever (2012), a documentary that brings together all of the forms of creative practice that we have discussed thus far: What story of African being in the world does this documentary tell? How does it go about telling this story? At the very least, I would like for your discussion to touch on the subjects of power, agency, representation, and circulation in addressing these questions.

Drawing from assigned course readings and films, please write a 5-page, double-spaced paper (1250–1500 words, in Times New Roman font size 12). Your paper must articulate an argument in answer to the main question posed above, based on an analysis of Mukii’s documentary, and bolstered by a discussion of the arguments of the writers we have read thus far.

Evaluation criteria:

  • Argument (Does the paper have an argument? Is it clearly stated?)
  • Evidence (How well is the argument supported by examples and course readings?)
  • Structure (Is the paper organized in an understandable manner? Are citations included? Are they used appropriately? Are page numbers included?)
  • Writing (Is the paper spell-checked? How is the use of grammar? Is sentence structure varied? Is the writing polished?)

For guidance on how to cite work in your paper, please consult Chicago Citation Style: Footnotes and Bibliography. (PDF)

How to go about writing this paper (in case you’re stuck):

  1. Watch the video.
  2. Take notes on what you find striking/relevant/confusing/interesting about it.
  3. Take a first pass at answering the paper question (articulating your argument).
  4. Take some notes about which course readings might be useful for your argument; revisit the readings and your class notes.
  5. Map out your paper, with the different parts of your argument bulleted.
  6. Attach the relevant reading to each part of the argument.
  7. Fill out your outline.
  8. Read and revise. Repeat.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2018
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights