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 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), and Estonia. His latest book is Nations, States and Violence. Over the past decade, mostly in collaboration with James Fearon, he has published several papers on ethnicity, ethnic cooperation, the sources of civil war, and on policies that work to settle civil wars. Laitin has also collaborated with Alan Krueger on international terrorism and with Eli Berman on suicide terrorism.