Instructor Insights

The Broader Relevance of Studying Africa

In this section, Professor Edoh explains how looking at Africa as a category of thought and looking at creative practices open new pathways for critical thinking that are applicable in many fields.

Our dream as educators is that what we do in the very limited setting of the classroom will be relevant to students’ experiences far beyond the classroom and beyond the specific topic of the course.

"I think the class helped give students the language to articulate questions about power. They may not always find answers, but at least they can notice patterns and describe what they’re seeing."
— M. Amah Edoh

About half the students in the course were Africans from the continent or first-generation Americans of African background, and the other half were Americans of various other ethnicities. My African students were there because they were interested in engaging with this part of their experience in a different realm, to actually study it in the classroom instead of just being immersed in it in their day-to-day lives when they’re back home. As for the non-African students, some of them were going to be working in Africa during the summer, or had just come back from being on the continent and wanted to learn more generally about the continent. So to what extent did being in the class broaden their perspectives or give them tools that they could use beyond this particular topic after the class?

I think the class helped give students the language to articulate questions about power. They may not always find answers, but at least they can notice patterns and describe what they’re seeing. We so often have a feeling that there’s something going on that’s not right, but we don’t quite have the language for it. A class like this aims to give students the language to articulate those feelings.

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