Search
Menu

African Cities: Their Pasts and Futures

Focusing on three Ghanaian cities — Accra, Cape Coast, and Kumasi — the seminar will trace the development of these urban centers from the earliest times to the present and explore the complicated cultural encounters that have given them distinct identities.

African Cities: Their Pasts and Futures
Supported by the Beth M. Siskind Global Seminars Fund
University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana

Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English

To understand Africa, one must come to terms with its cities, their histories, their cultures, and their subjects. According to the Dutch architect Rem Koolhass, “Africa has the highest level of urbanization and in 2020, 63% of its population will live in cities…50 million people will move to West African cities.” The purpose of this course is to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of this phenomenon. Focusing on three Ghanaian cities—Accra, Cape Coast, and Kumasi—the seminar will trace the development of these urban centers from the earliest times to the present and explore the complicated cultural encounters that have given them distinct identities. Drawing theories from history and anthropology, literature and cultural studies, political economy and urban studies, the seminar will explore some of the central questions in the study of the urban experience: What constitutes the space of the city in Africa? How do writers and filmmakers imagine their cities? Why and how do cities emerge in specific places? What are the challenges facing African cities in the age of globalization?

Based in Accra, students will immerse themselves in the life of the city, mapping out its social and cultural geography, trying to understand the invisible structures that define it. Weekend tours to Elmina, Cape Coast, and Kumasi will introduce students to the rich history and culture of the West African coast from the period of slavery to the present.

The seminar features daily instruction in Twi, the main language of Ghana; weekly guest speakers and films; and community service.

This course fulfills the Literature and Arts (LA) general education requirement.