Where does the colonial legacy end and the responsibility of Africa's own leaders for the continent's current predicaments begin? Why have the modern state, democracy, and the rule of law proved so difficult to build in Africa and are there any indigenous institutions to promote instead? Is it simply trite to say overseas development assistance has hurt Africa more that it has helped? How do we choose between the myriad explanations - natural resource abundance, high ethnic diversity, poor geography, weak state capacity, arbitrary borders, inter-group inequalities, and general poverty - in accounting for Africa's high incidence of civil wars?

This course is a survey of the major issues in sub-Saharan African politics which have confronted its leaders and peoples and engaged scholars and policy-makers since the end of colonial rule. As it is a graduate-level course in comparative politics, its content is guided by the aim of encouraging students to reflect critically on these big questions and to challenge widely-held assumptions about the continent. Students will be encouraged to place the issues studied into comparative historical and regional perspective. The application of important theoretical constructs in political science to real-world issues is central to the course's ethos. The ultimate goal of the course is to equip students who seek to enter the policy-making arena with a strong theoretical foundation for looking critically at Africa's ongoing challenges and the current strategies to meet them.

The course will examine each of these questions through country case studies. The case studies will vary from year-to-year, but the goal is to select from all the major country groupings to minimize the risk of students forming a regionally-skewed perspective on a diverse continent: west, east, central, and southern Africa will be represented. The course will also draw on a range of methodological approaches - quantitative, historical, and qualitative - though students will not need any prior specialized training in these research methods.