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African Studies Centre Leiden

Africa has a population of 1.5 billion people. In 30 years’ time, this will be 2.5 billion. The continent’s impact on the global economy, but also on the environment, will therefore increase drastically.

Researchers from the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) have been aware for decades of the crucial role that Africa plays in the world, a role that is only set to grow. In their research, they focus on four themes: politics and security; society, religion and culture; economy; and history.

As Africa’s voice will only become louder – by 2050 20% of the world’s population will come from Africa – it is important to have a thorough understanding of the continent. The ASCL is an interfaculty institute whose aim is to gain a better understanding of Africa in a rapidly changing world. The linchpin of the ASCL is its library, which has one of the biggest and best Africa collections in Europe with unique books that researchers from all around the world come to Leiden to see.

Collaborative Research Groups
At the heart of the ASCL’s research are its seven Collaborative Research Groups (CRGs), which work in one or more of the four themes above.

The researchers at the ‘Africa in the world: rethinking Africa’s global connections’ CRG study the links of African countries with a growing number of international players, such as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the Gulf States. They also look at how these relations have changed over the centuries.

Written and spoken word
The researchers from the ‘Collaboration and contestation in words: dialogues and disputes in African social realities’ CRG want to understand how the written and spoken word is used to bring about social change in African countries. Sometimes people form movements to advocate a certain goal, but sometimes they fight each other if their freedom is at stake.

African economies are growing: the continent is increasingly seen as a potential market. The ‘Governance, entrepreneurship and inclusive development’ CRG studies what this means for governance, entrepreneurship and inclusive development.

M-health
The researchers from the ‘Pioneering futures of health and well-being: actors, technologies, and social engineering’ CRG focus on new technologies in health care, such as m-health (mobile health) and e-health (electronic health). Take the Dawa Mobile Health project in Chad. Here doctors in remote villages use text messages to discover, treat and prevent bilharzia, a disease caused by worms.

Power in Africa
The ‘Politics, governance and law in Africa: exploring connections’ CRG looks at which processes define African politics, power and legislation. The researchers also consider new developments, such as how politically active youths are becoming increasingly vocal.

The ‘Rethinking contemporary African history and historiography’ CRG studies the history of Africa – and its position in the world – and of African Studies. It also researches the historiography of the continent.

And finally, the ‘Trans-species perspectives on African Studies’ CRG includes animal perspectives in the study of social issues.

Collaboration
The ASCL is a heavyweight in the academic world. It is coordinator and one of the founders of AEGIS, the Africa-Europe Group for Interdisciplinary Studies. Its researchers also work intensively with other universities, such as the University of Edinburgh and its Centre for African Studies, or the University of Ghana, which has one of the oldest Africa research centres on the continent.

The researchers from the ASCL inspire their students with their passion for Africa. All students on the master’s and research master’s programmes in African Studies do a research internship in Africa. This allows them to see for themselves the impact of this continent on the world, both now and in the future.

For more information visit the ASCL website or go directly to one of the following components:

More information about the African Studies Master and Research Master, and the Bachelor African Languages and Cultures (in Dutch).

Since 2016 the ASCL has coordinated the Leiden African Studies Assembly (LeidenASA), a network of all Leiden Africanists.

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