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Adjunct Major in African Studies

Providing students with the opportunity to gain skills in cross-cultural understanding, the adjunct major in African Studies challenges students by drawing on innovative scholarship across departments and schools while offering a sustained engagement with the African past, present, and future. The adjunct major is structured to serve two broad aims. First, students are exposed to the geographical and disciplinary breadth of African Studies. To that end, all students are required to take a minimum number of 200-level core courses in African history, anthropology, literature, and/or politics, and seven elective courses distributed among an array of disciplines. Second, students are required to engage in an in-depth research practicum experience, the product of which they will develop in a capstone senior research seminar.

Open to all Northwestern University undergraduate students, the adjunct major is designed to complement students’ other programs of study.


The major consists of 11 quarter-courses focusing on interdisciplinary research. Four of these are required courses (three core courses plus a senior capstone seminar). The seven elective courses are to be selected in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) from the list of approved courses published every quarter by PAS. The DUS will monitor this list and have the ability to add courses to it on an ad hoc basis. To complement the interdisciplinary coursework, a research or immersion practicum is required; the practicum may count as one of the seven elective courses.

Three core courses:

Students must choose three of the following courses:

History 255-1: Background to African Civilization and Cultures: Agricultural Origins to the17th Century

History 255-2: Background to African Civilization and Cultures: 16th through 19th Centuries

History 255-3: Background to African Civilization and Cultures: 1875 to 1994

Anthropology 255: Contemporary African Worlds

Political Science 259: Contemporary African Politics

African Studies 276: African Literature in Translation

A student who takes more than three of these courses may count the additional course(s) toward the elective category, subject to the restrictions below.

Seven elective-category courses

Courses must be chosen from the list of approved courses monitored by the DUS. Additions to the list of approved courses may be made on an ad hoc basis by the DUS; they may include study-abroad course credits or credit for the practicum, as described below. A minimum of three different departments must be represented, and at least three of the courses must be at the 300 level. Students will meet annually with the DUS to measure progress toward completion of the major.

Senior seminar

AF ST 395: Interdisciplinary Capstone Senior Research Seminar. This seminar will be taught by a combination of one faculty member with two advanced graduate students. The seminar will provide students a venue to develop analyses of the research or field work experience they have undertaken as part of their research practicum. Because the instructors and the student cohort come from a variety of disciplines, the seminar will encourage each student to consider their research project from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Students writing an approved senior thesis in African Studies may register for the capstone seminar under an AF ST 399 Independent Study rubric.

Research or immersion practicum

All students must complete a quarter-long practicum directly relating to African Studies. The form of the practicum will be decided after consultation with and approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Practicums will often involve a central research component, but the DUS will consider proposed practicums on an ad hoc basis to determine whether the content can qualify based on other criteria, such as the quality and depth of immersion. Work in the practicum will be evaluated and graded by a faculty supervisor, either as a formal graded course or as a 399 registration (see examples below). The practicum may count toward the seven elective-category courses for the major, but this need not always be the case.

A contract describing the nature of the practicum and signed by the faculty supervisor (e.g., the internship director or the supervisor of the senior thesis), the student, and the DUS, will constitute formal approval of the practicum. Satisfactory completion of the practicum will be confirmed by a signed statement to that effect from the faculty supervisor.

Practicums will typically take one of the following forms, but these examples are not exhaustive:

Study abroad in Africa. This can involve any approved (by the Northwestern Study Abroad Office) or alternative program (subject to approval by the DUS for African Studies). Although most study-abroad programs in Africa require a research component, the DUS will consider other proposed programs to determine whether the content can qualify based on other criteria.

Internship with a PAS-sponsored research project. For example, the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa or the Research Alliance to Combat HIV/AIDS. In such cases, the student and his/her faculty supervisor will propose an Independent Study program (399) clearly stating the nature of the study and mode of evaluation.

Independently proposed research or internship. This can involve work funded by an Undergraduate Research Grant (URG) and done in Africa or in a relevant archive or field-work setting. As with PAS-sponsored internships, such research and internships will take the form of a 399 Independent Study.

Senior thesis on Africa-related topic. The thesis can be in the student’s second (stand-alone) major. No more than two courses from the stand-alone major may be double-counted toward the African Studies adjunct major.

For more information about the adjunct major in African Studies please contact the Program of African Studies at or 847-491-7323.

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