Course Spotlight: African Politics

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia. (Shealah Craighead, via Wikimedia Commons)

The course looks at a wide range of current political developments, situating them within an historical context, using concepts from political science, readings by African and non-African authors, and numerous assigned videos. The course is structured around several key themes: 1) pre-colonial and colonial legacies of the state; 2) dimensions of conflict; 3) the impact of ethnicity, gender, religion and LGBTQ identities on African politics; 4) the changing role of political institutions like parties and elections on Africa’s political landscape in the context of democratization; 5) new economic opportunities and challenges; 6) and Africa’s engagements with the world, including a segment on foreign aid and another on immigration. The course explores both formal but also unwritten, non-formal institutions and “hidden transcripts that shape political and economic dynamics, e.g., the informal economy, clientelist relationships, and local governance structures.


Political Science 329: African Politics
4 credits
Tues./Thurs., 11:00 am-12:15PM
114 Van Hise Hall
Spring 2018


Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 4th edition, 2016.
Richard Bourne, Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Century. Oxford, Zed Books, 1st edition, 2015.
Cooper, Helene, Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Simon & Schuster, 2017.


Mobutu King of Zaire
God Loves Uganda
The Supreme Price
Iron Ladies of Liberia
An African Election
The Land Between


Aili Mari Tripp is Wangari Maathai Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tripp’s research has focused on women and politics in Africa, women’s movements in Africa, women and peacebuilding, transnational feminism, African politics, and on the informal economy in Africa. Born in the UK to American and Finnish parents, she lived in Tanzania for over 15 years. She has conducted extensive research over 30 years in countries ranging from Tanzania, to Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Angola, Morocco, Algeria, and the UK.

She is author of several award winning books, including Women and Power in Postconflict Africa (2015), Museveni’s Uganda: Paradoxes of Power in a Hybrid Regime (2010), African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes (2009) with Isabel Casimiro, Joy Kwesiga, and Alice Mungwa, and Women and Politics in Uganda (2000). She has been president of the African Studies Association and vice president of the American Political Science Association.

For more information, visit her website.