Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Contemporary African Politics


Africa has lagged the rest of the developing world in terms of three consequential outcomes: economic development, the establishment of social order through effective governance, and the consolidation of democracy. This course seeks to identify the historical and political sources accounting for this lag, to provide extensive case study and statistical material to understand what sustains it, and to examine recent examples of success pointing to a more hopeful future. Students will be asked to develop expertise on one or two African countries and report regularly to fellow students on the progress (or lack thereof) of their countries on each outcome and the reasons for it.

Meet the Instructor(s)

David D. Laitin

David D. Laitin is the James T. Watkins IV and Elise V. Watkins Professor of Political Science and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College, and then served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia and Grenada, where he became a national tennis champion in 1970. Back in the United States, he received his Ph.D. in political science from UC Berkeley. He has conducted field research on issues of language, religion, and politics in Somalia, Yorubaland (Nigeria), Catalonia (Spain), Estonia, and France. His latest book is Africa States Since Independence: Order, Development and Democracy which serves as the basis for this intro seminar. Over the past five years, after completing a book on Muslim integration into Christian-heritage societies, he has co-directed Stanford’s immigration policy lab, seeking to identify policies that best help immigrants and refugees succeed in their host countries and bring benefits to the communities in which they settle.