African history and institutions

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Land is the main resource in Africa, granting labor to the 70% of the labor force that between formal and informal employment generates, however, the 30% of the continent's GDP. It is clear from this picture that Africa cannot feed itself. The continent lives on exports of raw materials, food imports and aid. Malnutrition remains a major concern even today, despite levels of economic growth, also due to the resurgence of climate change, which significantly reduces access to food, especially in rural areas. The consequences on human and economic capital are such as to reduce the rate of growth of p.c. GDP between 0.16% and 4%. Despite this context, Africa's great potential to alleviate growing global food insecurity is widely recognized: extensive land grabbing operations are therefore under way, with their corollary of financial speculation and the complacency of "developmentalist" elites.
This course examines the saga of sub-Saharan Africa, from the impact of colonial exploitation on pre-existing political, economic and social structures to the extraordinary goal of the African Free Trade Area. Space will be given to the regional dynamics and international trends that, although apparently pushing for an emergence of Africa as an economic protagonist, seem to act following a globally anarchist trend. Although converging towards an involution of poverty, the weakening of the labor supply has extreme consequences in the sub-Saharan Africa, terribly vulnerable though complex and reactive in different measure. A monographic unit will be devoted to the resources policies (land, in particular) in Southern Africa, to stress both continental and global differences and similarities.
Expected learning outcomes
Students should achieve an understanding of the impact caused by the Colonial course, on different African peoples with their own social, cultural and political structures in past environments. They are expected to demonstrate a certain measure of ability to recognize and articulate the diversity of human experience, including ethnicity, race, language and/or gender, articulating them in the tensions between different socio-political and economic models, by producing their own historical analyses. They should be able to range from the colonial exploitation to the bureaucratic patrimonialism of the independent states, to the competition for control, management and redistribution of the natural resources along with the global trends in Africa, and in sub-Saharan Africa in particular, on behalf of the developmental state. Such a capacity to think critically and historically when discussing the cultural conflicts and institutional stratification in the past, and their consequences in the present, has to be expected in students in their third year in a political sciences course degree.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Third trimester
- The teaching program will not undergo any change if the emergency phase persists and will be provided online and in sync with the same duration of the lessons in presence.
- The Reference Material: in addition to the textbooks adopted, in electronic format if available (thanks to the director of our library), attending students will have at their disposal the slides of the lessons on the Ariel course platform:
- Synchronous classes will be held on MsTeams. Since the course considers the distinction between attending and non-attending students, the lessons will not be recorded unless students have convincing reasons for this regard.
- How to verify learning: until different arrangements, the exams will be carried out orally on the MsTeams platform. Attending and non-attending students have various programs: non-attending students, in particular, will not bring the slides to support synchronous teaching and will have additional essays for II and III teaching units, to compensate. The oral exam consists of 3 questions. The first is a topic chosen by the student - in which he/she must demonstrate to juggle with language properties among the selected texts - at possible anchoring the themes of the case studies chosen in the main textbook. The other two questions are in-depth of the course attended (for attending students) and the main textbook's themes (for everyone).
Regardless of the main textbook, attending and non-attending students can agree with the teacher on a program in line with their specific interests.
Course syllabus
I DU - Programmed looting of the African raw materials (starting from the human ones) in the phases of the colonial era
II DU - Continuity in looting the African resources also via the African institutional powers in the post-independence phase. The following three focuses are in alternative (minded different agreement with the professor).
Focus 1: Land policy.
Focus 2: Memory in the post-conflict dimension.
Focus 3: Political-institutional evolution of the sub-Saharan State [recommended for non-attending students].
III DU - Focus on South Africa: South Africa is experiencing a troubled season, but compelling for the scholar of political institutions. After the #RhodesMustFall movement shifted to the Decolonising knowledge request, now the quest for land redistribution, promised and never completed in 25 years of ANC government, are inspiring challenges for a better understanding of the complexity at stake, especially in the syndemic crisis perspective.
Prerequisites for admission
Contemporary history
Teaching methods
Teaching classes (on-line too), in interaction with students. The PowerPoint support that summarizes what presented in class, added to the blog "Let's build the course" on the Ariel platform ( in addition to a parallel cinema forum, aim at giving insights on selected literature, documentaries and films. The aim is to stimulate debates and give the right depth about institutional building complex courses in sub-Saharan Africa.
Whenever possible, authors of books relevant to this program will be invited.
Teaching Resources
Attending students only are expected to study lessons, slides and materials uploaded on the website .
I/II UD - Arrigo Pallotti, Mario Zamponi, Anna Maria Medici, L'AFRICA CONTEMPORANEA, Le Monnier Università, 2017
For the assessment, students are expected to study one of the following focuses:
II UD - Focus 1 / Resources management politics: the land - 4 essays (5 for non-attending students) selected with the professor - as an example :
· Fiamingo C., "Izwe lethu". L'istanza d'esproprio senza indennizzo della terra tra aspettative di giustizia sociale e contenimento sindemico - Focus su CapeTown, in NAD, 2(2) 2020, pp. 31
Or inside one or some of the following volumes.
· Fiamingo, Van Aken e Ciabarri (eds.), Conflitti per la terra. accaparramento, consumo e accesso indisciplinato, Ed. Altravista, 2014
· Pallotti, Tornimbeni e Zamponi (eds.), Sviluppo rurale e povertà in africa australe. le sfide del millennio, Rubbettino Università 2016.
· Pellizzoli (ed.), La questione della terra in Mozambico fra diritti delle comunità e investimenti, «afriche e orienti» special nr. 2014
· Chinigò e Pallotti (eds.), Rural development and poverty reduction in Southern Africa: experiences from Zambia and Malawi, «afriche e orienti» special nr. 2016.

II UD - Focus 2: Memory politics:
4 essays (5 for non attending students) inside one ar some of the following volumes:
· Fiamingo (a cura di), Culture della memoria e patrimonializzazione della memoria storica, Ed. Unicopli, Milano, 2014 (limitatamente ai saggi riguardanti l'Africa)
· Antonio Morone (a cura di), La fine del colonialismo italiano. Politica, società e memorie, Le Monnier, 2019

II UD - Focus 3: Poltical evolution of the sub-Saharan State
in alternative:
· Zamponi, I sistemi politici dell'Africa indipendente, Carocci Ed. 2020
· Pallotti, Alla ricerca della democrazia. L'Africa subsahariana tra autoritarismo e sviluppo, Rubbettino, 2013
or 4 essays (5 for non attending students) inside one or some of the following volumes.
· Pallotti e Rognoni (eds.) L'Africa fra vecchie e nuove potenze, «afriche e orienti» n. 1-2. 2018 e/o da
· Pezzano (ed.), Le pratiche dello Stato in Africa: spazi sociali e politici contestati, «afriche e orienti» n. 2-3. 2016.

III UD - South African history
· Zamponi M., Breve storia del Sudafrica. dalla segregazione alla democrazia, Carocci Quality paperbacks, 2009
Assessment methods and Criteria
Students who attend 70% of the lessons are considered attending students, when in presence, or on the Ms Teams Platform, a presence which will be verified via direct questions.
Non-attending students will study a larger bibliography to compensate for the studying of lessons and slides on behalf of the attending students.
The assessment is oral and consists of three questions: at the beginning, the student will pick any argument of his/her choice. He/She must demonstrate language capability to express concepts at the basis of the selected texts, by anchoring as far as possible the themes of the lessons with the main textbook and the chosen case studies among the suggested literature. The other two questions aim at ascertaining further acquired knowledge along the course. The handbook apart, both attending and non-attending students can evaluate with the professor an alternative program that suits their specific interests.
In particular, it will be assessed the ability of the attending student to participate actively in class/ self-study ability, in case of non-attending students; such capacities, if combined with the achievement of a coherent framework of the topics developed during the lessons, the application of critical sense and suitable means of expression will be considered and evaluated with the maximum grading (27/30-30 cum laude).
Attendance/autonomy, if joint to a predominantly mnemonic acquisition of course's contents and discontinuous language and logical skills will be assessed in a grading range from good (24-26/30) to satisfactory (21-23/30).
Attendance/autonomy, with a minimum level of knowledge of the course contents, combined with training gaps or inadequate language and logical skills, it will get as grade 'barely passing' (18-20/30).
The absence of a minimum level of knowledge of the course contents, combined with inadequate language and logical skills and training gaps, will produce a fail grading, even despite an assiduous attendance.
Unità didattica 1
Lessons: 20 hours
Unità didattica 2
Lessons: 20 hours
Unità didattica 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Ask for a Skype/MsTeams appointment writing to
Ist floor, room 10, via Conservatorio 7