Harvard Summer Program in Dakar, Senegal

June 16, 2018 to August 11, 2018
Apply by: 
January 25, 2018

Learn about modern Francophone Africa while exploring the diversity of Senegal. 

Modern Senegambian culture is the product of centuries of cultural, economic, and political interactions between Arabs, Europeans, and Black-Africans. In this program, you have the opportunity to travel throughout Senegal and study the many artistic, religious, linguistic, and cultural influences that have shaped and continue to influence modern Senegambian societies. 

Program Structure

Your studies will focus on academic books, novels, pamphlets, the arts, painting, cinema, crafts, and music to investigate the various sources of influence that shaped—and continue to influence—modern Senegambian societies. In addition to lectures, discussion, and movie viewings, you also visit Islamic and Christian sites of pilgrimage in Senegal, shrines of African religions, museums, and village art. You also attend drumming performances by Senegalese musicians.

Your classroom discussion sections will be held in English and French. Relevant teaching materials (e.g., academic texts, novels, and movies) will be for the most part available in both English and French. You have the option to read texts, watch movies, attend discussion section, and write course papers in either English or French.


This program counts for one full-year course (8 credits) or degree credit. AAAS S-137 also meets the General Education requirement for Culture and Belief or Societies of the World, and for Study of the Past.

In addition, concentration, secondary field, or foreign language citation credit may be available from Romance Languages and Literatures, if all coursework is done in French. Please consult the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures for more information.

AAAS S-137 Study Abroad in Dakar, Senegal: Belief, Culture, and Society in Francophone Africa (33769)

Ousmane Kane
8 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

Offered in Dakar, Senegal, this course introduces students to francophone Africa by situating it in world history and political economy, and particularly its place in the slave trade. Lectures explore the formation and transformation of the religious landscape of Senegambia. How were Islam and Christianity introduced, appropriated, and transformed here? How did they interact with traditional African religions? What factors paved the way for their spread? How did they contribute to education and the production of knowledge? What impact have they had on gender and inter-generational relations? How have they informed arts and culture?

The course further examines the impact of Senegambia's two educational systems, Arab-Islamic and French, that have persisted since colonial times, and looks at how interactions between Arabs, black Africans, and Europeans produced a culturally hybrid society in the postcolonial period. Focusing on novels, pamphlets, painting, cinema, crafts, and music, students explore this hybridity as well as the different expressions of social and political concerns. In addition to lectures, discussion, and movie viewing, students visit Islamic and Christian pilgrimage sites and African religious shrines, and get a flavor of Senegalese village life by attending wrestling matches and drumming performances.

Where You Live and Study

Dakar, Senegal's capital and largest city, offers an ideal location to study West Africa's colonial history and postcolonial transformations. 


Students stay in apartments close to the West African Research Center where curricular activities are held.

How to Apply

Review How to Apply before submitting your application.

Application materials include: 

  1. A statement of interest in the program
    • Include information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not required) 
  2. Transcripts
    • Harvard College applicants: You may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu.
    • Non-Harvard applicants: Submit an official transcript from your university.
  3. A $50 nonrefundable application fee

Note: Interviews may be requested.

Applications are now closed. You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.


The program fee includes tuition, accommodation, scheduled excursions and activities, and some meals.

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options. 

Student budget

Student budget

In addition to the program fee, you will need to budget for a number of personal expenses: 

  • International airfare ($1,600 to $2,000)
  • Local transportation ($150)
  • Some meals ($1,000)
  • Personal expenditures, laundry, communications, and miscellaneous ($500)

Please note: The amounts are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not listed here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including your personal spending habits and currency exchange rates. If you have specific questions about budgeting, please contact the program directly.

Additional Information