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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3590 White Africans: Intimacy, Race and Power

40 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Will Jackson

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The module investigates the history of settler colonialism with intimacy as its analytical lens. Intimacy allows us to explore race and empire less in terms of how they were culturally represented or intellectually justified but as they were lived. Each week we explore a theme that gets us close, empathically and imaginatively, as well as analytically to the human protagonists on whom the settler-colonial racial order depended. We look at family life, at the history of relationships and emotions, at the collision between the settlers’ fantasies of Africa and their lived experience of it. We explore the history of childhood, the life stories of deviants, deportees and the mentally ill and stories of inter-racial love and sex. Using intimacy as our entry-way to this history reveals the political history of the settler colonies – Kenya, Southern Rhodesia and South Africa – in new light. Conquest and colonisation, the passing of racist legislation, the exploitation of land and labour, and the protracted and violent freedom struggles that brought about eventual (if partial) decolonisation: all this is tracked and critically investigated at ‘eye level’, through the lives and experiences of the men, women and children who claimed to be ‘white Africans’. The module connects with recent theoretical developments in the study of settler colonialism and with a burgeoning body of work on the social history of settlers in Africa. It is based on a substantial archive of primary sources, collected over the past three years during a series of research trips to East and Southern Africa and including over 27,000 photographed archival files. We end the course asking what it means to be a ‘white African’ in the twenty-first century and what this history means for race and empire in Britain, no less than in Africa, today.


The goals of this module are:
1. To equip students with a sound historical knowledge of the histories of settler colonialism in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and Kenya from the 1890s to the present

2. To encourage students to develop a sophisticated conceptual understanding of race, settler colonialism and decolonisation.

3. To enable students to bring to this history an approach grounded in theories of intimacy and the emotions.

4. To develop techniques for reading and writing that enable self-reflexivity and an approach to primary source material that is empathic and imaginative.

5. To enable students to produce first class dissertation work on a project related to the module.

Learning outcomes
1. On completion of the module, students will have gained a sophisticated understanding of the significance of settler colonialism in the history of modern Africa and the history of British imperialism.

2. Students will have been exposed to a wide range of primary sources, including many from my current archival work (collated and available to students in digital form, photographed from UK, Kenyan and South African archives). They will have learned ways to handle this source material and incorporate it into their own work.

3. Students will have become literate in the theoretical and historical scholarship on the history and sociology of intimacy and the emotions.

4. Students will have acquired the analytical tools and historical knowledge to think critically about empire, its decline and its legacies, in settler Africa and elsewhere.


The module is at once thematic, chronological and comparative. It begins at the end of the nineteenth century with the scramble for Africa, the colonisation of Kenya and Southern Rhodesia and the South African ‘mineral revolution’. It progresses through the twentieth century to the present day but is built around thematically-focused seminars that are devised in line with the module’s analytical framing.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours352.00
Total Contact hours48.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Students are expected to prepare thoroughly for each seminar. This will include:
• The reading and analysis of set materials
• Broader, directed reading
• Engagement with the work of other seminar participants.
The module includes one piece of formal written assessment and one element based on student performance in class. For these students will need to:
• Carry out independent research
• Read widely and consistently in order to develop a breadth of knowledge adequate for class participation
• Develop appropriate skills of criticism, analysis, referencing and written and spoken communication.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored by seminar participation, non-assessed work and in consultation with students in office hours and by appointment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,000 words due Monday exam week 2, semester 150.00
AssignmentVLE Exercise10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)40.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:08


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