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African Studies

Director: Ian Barrow (Professor of History)
Phone: 802-443-2554


Africa has been understudied, misunderstood, and mythologized. Yet beyond the stereotypes lie dynamic, complex worlds. Middlebury's African Studies program opens doors to this vast, fascinating, and intriguing continent.

Today, the continent is home to modern nation states, diverse economic systems, and hundreds of languages and cultures. Through trade, religion, migration, arts, and the exploitation of its natural resources, Africa has felt the impact of transnational and global changes. In turn it has affected other regions of the world.

The IGST African Studies Program faculty come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, including anthropology, history, languages, music, and political science.

Through interdisciplinary coursework, language competency in French or Swahili, and study abroad, African Studies majors are encouraged to move beyond preconceived notions of Africa to reflect critically and creatively on the position of Africa in our globalized world.


Introduction to International and Global Studies. Students must take IGST 101 before studying abroad. IGST 0101 is not open to seniors except for those who declared the major as sophomores and spent the fall semester of their junior year abroad. Students who declare their major as a sophomore but have not taken IGST 0101, and plan to study abroad for only one semester must take it in the fall of their junior year prior to going abroad.

Regional specialization. Five courses on Africa, in at least three departments (at least one of which should be in Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science or Sociology). At least three regional courses must be taken at Middlebury. See available courses here.

Global Courses. Three global courses from the Global list; only one can be at the 0100 level. These global courses are thematic, trans-regional, emphasize connectivity of places and the circulation of ideas and phenomena. Except for students who study abroad an entire year, these courses must be taken on the Middlebury College campus.

Language/Culture. Language competency in French or Swahili. If French is the language of emphasis, students must study an appropriate indigenous African language to a level of reasonable competence while abroad. The French Department will specify which courses fulfill the French requirement. The African Studies director will specify which courses fulfill the Swahili requirement. Students who, upon declaring the IGS major, have been determined proficient in French or Swahili will continue to take this language at the advanced level and are strongly recommended to take one year or equivalent of another language. The additional language should be chosen in consultation with the advisor.

Study Abroad. Students can study abroad in the Middlebury program in Yaoundé, Cameroon or in approved programs in other African countries. Prior to going abroad they must become proficient in French or competent in Swahili. If French is the language of emphasis, students must also study a local African language while abroad. Students who study abroad for one semester may count up to two courses and those who study abroad for a full year may count up to four courses toward the major. Upon return students must take at least one advanced course in French or an independent study in Swahili.  

For the class of 2022 and 2022.5 only: in lieu of study abroad, students will take a minimum of two additional language courses at 300 level and above.

Senior Program. The senior program consists of: (1) a senior IGST seminar at 400-level or with permission of IGS director, a thematic senior seminar in a department  and (2) an upper-level course, preferably two, in French or Swahili after returning from abroad.

Honors. Students who seek to graduate with Honors may elect to write a two-term senior honors thesis. Students are eligible to write an honors thesis if they have a 3.5 GPA or better in all courses that count for the major. These include all language courses, all regional courses, all global courses, all courses taken abroad, and all courses with an IGST designation. Thesis grades do not count in the calculation of the GPA for honors. Thesis guidelines and procedures can be found at go/igsthesis.

Any exception to these rules must have the explicit approval of the IGS African Studies Director.

To assist you in tracking the completion of your requirements, please meet with your advisor to complete and submit the advising wizard for your track.