BA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Gender and Sexuality in Modern Africa

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST31002
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course will consider histories of gender and sexuality in sub-Saharan Africa during the colonial and post-colonial periods, roughly from 1880 until the present. During the past twenty-five years, scholars have argued that gender is less a matter of biological fact than a historically and culturally contingent construction. Institutions like woman-woman marriage and various gender-transgressive identities suggest that many African cultures do not divide people into “men” and “women” in the same way Western cultures have done. At the same time, the wide-ranging political and economic transformations of the last century have had profound implications for gender and sexuality, causing changes in the sexual division of labor and in domestic life. We will therefore consider gender and sexuality in Africa both as a set of identities and practices and as part of wider questions of work, domesticity, and social control.



  • Introduce students to key debates in gender history and theory
  • Provide students with an overview of modern African history through the lens of gender studies
  • Underscore the importance of gender to political-economic approaches to history
  • Provide a survey of a number of different African societies across the past 125 years.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Increased familiarity with independent research in African history, through research projects on specific societies
  • Exposure to primary sources on African gender history
  • Greater experience at presenting historical material orally and in writing
  • New familiarity with the historiography of gender and sexuality

Intellectual skills

  • Applying theoretical approaches from gender theory to a range of empirical case studies,
  • Ability to compare case material from diverse societies,
  • Discern arguments from academic writing
  • Practice applying approaches from one author to a different case

Practical skills

  • Prioritise tasks,
  • Identify arguments in scholarly writing,  
  • Analyse texts for the learning challenges the present for their peers
  • Write critically, and
  • Engage in comparative analysis. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical reading ability
  • Clear, precise writing ability
  • Ability to engage in critical discussions
  • Greater familiarity with African histories and societies

Employability skills

Especially at this moment of history, an understanding of Africa is a key skill for many employment sectors: finance and international trade increasingly involves contact with African countries; Britain's large population of Africans makes African history important for public-facing employment inside the U.K. This module further develops the of history students in critical reading, writing, presentation, and analysis as they complete their final year.

Assessment methods

Essay 55%
Book review 45%
Book review prospectus 0%


Feedback methods

Written feedback on essays


Oral feedback in office hours on essays and class participation



Recommended reading

Ifi Amadiume, Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society (New York: Zed Books, 1987).

Dorothy L. Hodgson, Once Intrepid Warriors: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Cultural Politics of Maasai Development (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001).

Lisa Lindsay and Stephan Miescher, eds. Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2003).

Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe, eds., Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities (New York: Palgrave, 2001).

Lynn M. Thomas, The Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

Luise White, The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Steven Pierce Unit coordinator

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