Language and Politics in Southern Africa
General Catalog Course Title:
Freshman Seminars
Terms Offered:
Spring 2016
Fall 2015
Spring 2015
Spring 2014
Spring 2013
Course Thread: 
Human Rights
Instructor: 
Mchombo, Sam A.

This seminar will focus on political developments in Southern Africa and the use of language in fostering national identity and attaining cultural emancipation. We will look at case studies representative of the dynamics of the region. The topics covered will include a brief history of the peoples of Southern Africa; family structure, kinship systems and traditional political institutions; cultural practices and religious beliefs; the impact of contact with western culture and civilization on language issues and political organization; language and its role in fostering national identity in post-independence Africa; models of national language policy in multi-ethnic societies; language use and democratic practice and human rights; the impact of AIDS on economic development and linguistic ecology; prospects of mother-education, and the use of African languages in science and technology. Since the course is a seminar, students will be expected to participate actively in the class. There will be a course reader. There will be no examinations. Grades will be based on one 500-word paper and class participation. This seminar is part of the Food for Thought Seminar Series.

Sam Mchombo is an Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies and was a member of the Department of Linguistics faculty from 1988 to 2009. He received his B.A. from the University of Malawi and Ph.D. from the University of London. He pioneered and taught courses in Linguistics and African Language Structure in what is now the Department of African Languages and Linguistics in the University of Malawi. From 1985-1988 he was a member of the Linguistics faculty at San Jose State University, teaching courses on general linguistics, syntax, and semantics. His research focuses on grammatical theory and African linguistic structure. Recently, he has also focused on aspects of African politics, delivering talks at the World Affairs Council on emergent democracies, as well as human rights in Africa. His publications include Theoretical Aspects of Bantu Grammar (1993), The syntax of Chichewa (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and "Democratization in Malawi: Its Roots and Prospects," published in a volume edited by Jean-Germain Gros called Democratization in Late Twentieth-Century Africa. Other works include papers on "National Identity, Democracy and the Politics of Language in Malawi and Tanzania," as well as "The Role of the Media in Fostering Democracy in Southern Africa," both published in The Journal of African Policy Studies, "Religion and Politics in Malawi" in Issues in Political Discourse Analysis (2005), and "Sports and Development in Malawi" in Soccer and Society Vol. 7 No. 2-3, 2006. He has delivered invited lectures and conference presentations in Hong Kong, Europe, Mexico, and in Africa. In Spring 2003, he was appointed Distinguished African Scholar by the Institute for African Development at Cornell University.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.