AAAS S-20 Introduction to African Languages and Cultures through Social Engagement

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7-week session | CRN 33514

This course explores how sub-Saharan Africans use language to understand, organize, and transmit culture, history, and indigenous knowledge to successive generations. Language serves as a road map to comprehending how social, political, and economic institutions and processes develop, from kinship structures and the evolution of political offices to trade relations and the transfer of environmental knowledge. As a social engagement course, we combine scholarly inquiry and academic study with practical experience and personal involvement in the community. Students are given the opportunity to study Africans, their languages, and their cultures from the ground up, not only through textbooks and data sets but through personal relationships, cultural participation, and inquisitive explorations of local African heritage communities. By examining linguistic debates and cultural traditions and interrogating their import in the daily lives of Boston-area Africans, we hope to bridge the divide between grand theories and everyday practices, between intellectual debates and the lived experiences of individuals, between the American academy and the African world. Ultimately, this course aims to bring Africans themselves into the center of the academic study of Africa.

Course information
Class meetings

Tuesdays, Thursdays, noon-3 pm
1280 Massachusetts Avenue 360

Start date

Tuesday, June 26


4 credits

Course tuition


Enrollment status

  • Registration Closed
  • Faculty

    John M. Mugane, PhD.

    Professor of the Practice of African Languages and Cultures and Director of the African Language Program, Harvard University