By Kerry Milton, on 23 June 2015
In the 2015/2016 academic year UCL will launch three new masters programmes in African Studies, with pathways in Health, Heritage and the Environment.
It is perhaps remarkable that UCL has not pursued African Studies until now. For many years UCL has been the centre of Africanist scholarship in Anthropology and Geography and became the UK’s first venue for the study of African Historical Archaeology and Heritage in the 1990s. In terms of full-time, permanent scholars whose primary area of research lies in the African continent, a total of 37 academic staff, we are on a par with SOAS. Unlike SOAS, our expertise ranges principally across the Social and Natural Sciences.
The African Studies Masters programmes are set to take advantage of UCL’s traditional strengths in the anthropology and geography of African environments, research into regional health, epidemics and medical infrastructure, and the cultural and archaeological heritage of the continent and its management. This is NOT a typical approach to African Studies. Historically, African Studies has been deeply embedded either in the Humanities (with strong linguistic leanings) and/or in areas of political science and international policy. Its post-colonial creation as a discipline was largely shaped by the needs of the Foreign Office and Commonwealth NGOs.
We are proposing a new concept of African Studies at UCL as a fully inter-disciplinary nexus point for collaboration and information sharing across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. This approach will have utility both for international policy making and business bodies, as well as enhanced relevance for those working within African national infrastructures.
The initiative to launch African Studies at UCL was put forward by Anthony Costello, Mary Fulbrook, Jonathan Wolff, and Kevin MacDonald. The academic lead of this new programme, MacDonald, is a senior scholar in African Historical Anthropology and Archaeology, with inter-disciplinary research on ethnic ambiguity in Africa, slavery and memory in West Africa and the Diaspora, pre-colonial West African political systems, and heritage management.
The programme as a whole is coordinated by a steering committee of Africanists, drawn from across a range of disciplines: Ben Page (Geography) Sara Randall & Jerome Lewis (Anthropology), Michael Walls (DPU, Bartlett), Paul Basu (Institute of Archaeology), and Anthony Costello (Health). This summer two new Lecturers in African Studies will join UCL: Hélène Neveu Kringelbach (formerly of Oxford) and Matthew Davies (formerly of Cambridge).
Expect a range of African events next year at UCL, including major guest speakers from the continent, new seminar series, photographic exhibitions and concerts.
UCL African Studies is situated within the Centre for Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Inquiry and the Institute of Advanced Studies.