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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Itohan I Osayimwese
HIST 490
Seattle Campus

Topics in History

Examines special topics in history.

Class description

The image of Africa in the popular imagination is primarily one of rural social, cultural, economic, and political structures. In contrast, this course explores Africa’s urban past, present, and future. People lived in dynamic cities and towns in many regions of Africa long before the era of modern colonialism. With colonialism, however, came increased urbanization that followed specific patterns and was expressed in unique urban design schemes and built forms. These urban schemes and built forms often served as the locus of emerging nationalism and independence movements, and were subsequently an important object of attention from governing postcolonial elites.

Starting with an overview of urbanism in precolonial African societies, we will discuss the ways in which the urban environment was shaped by and itself produced social relations during the colonial period, in the era of anti-colonial nationalism, through the postcolonial and globalization periods. Case studies from both North and sub-Saharan Africa will provide an overview of urbanism in Africa that challenges existing biases in African Studies. The goal is to achieve an understanding of the social meaning of the built and designed environment within the specificities of African contexts, African specificity being a problematic concept.

Student learning goals

Students will be able to describe and explain major events and processes in African history as they have been manifested through the urban environment.

By the end of the quarter, students will be able to read the built environment and identify fundamental elements of urban form.

General method of instruction

A combination of lecture and dsicussion.

Recommended preparation

Some preparation in history and/or African Studies is recommended. Prior coursework in Urban History or Urban Studies is not necessary.

Class assignments and grading

In-class quizzes and required final paper.

Final grade will be based on quizzes, participation in class discussions, and final paper.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Itohan I Osayimwese
Date: 10/17/2008