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Political Studies

The Department of Political Studies at Wits is one of Africa’s leading academic departments in its field. 

The Department’s prizewinning teaching and research staff are closely engaged with the challenges of: 

  • A society in transition
  • The role of South Africa in Africa, the Global South, and the world.

Dynamic interaction between postgraduate students and academic staff is part of the Department’s culture. The vibrancy of the department is enhanced by international students drawn to the department from Africa, Europe, and North America.

Undergraduates can register for majors in Political Studies, African Politics and History, and Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE).

Our postgraduate programmes include Honours, Masters, and PhD degrees in Political Studies, including a Masters in Politics and Gender.

Undergraduate Studies

Political Studies Major

Curriculum

First Year

Students must take two first-year courses in Political Studies.

Second Year

Students choose one unit in Semester One and one unit in Semester Two. HIST2003 (History of Sub-Saharan Africa) may be taken towards the Political Studies major.

Third Year

Students choose two units in Semester One and two units in Semester Two from our range of available options. In the third year, students may choose to do HIST3003 (History of the African City) towards this major.

Major in African Studies in History and Politics

Curriculum

This major requires students to have two first-year credits (36 points) either in History or in Political Studies.

Second Year

Students must register for: HIST2003 - History of Sub-Saharan Africa and POLS2012 - South Africa: Politics and Governance.

Third Year

In the third year, the major in African Studies in History and Politics will require 72 points from: 

  • POLS3003 - Development Concepts and Experience
  • POLS3016 - The Politics and Ideologies of Redistribution
  • POLS3018 - Conflict, Stability and State Building in Africa
  • HIST3003 - History of the African City.

N.B. Students can substitute one of the above with a module (18 points) from the third year modules in International Relations, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology or History.

Undergraduate Courses

POLITICAL STUDIES LEVEL 1000 MODULES

All Political Studies students do the same modules in the first year, that is POLS 1007 (Introduction to Political Studies) and POLS 1008 (States, Power and Governance)

POLS 1007: Introduction to Political Studies Semester 1 – Slot E

This unit introduces students to foundational themes in Political Studies. These include ideologies, concepts and approaches to politics. It then explores South Africa in a globalised world, focussing on contemporary politics and issues that confront this generation in the 21st century.

POLS 1008: States, Power and Governance Semester 2 – Slot E

This unit examines different ways of ruling in selected states. It deals with issues such as state power, who rules, how and through what institutions. The unit looks at different case studies in the 20th century.

POLITICAL STUDIES LEVEL 2000 MODULES

HIST 2003: History of Sub-Saharan Africa Semester 1 - Slot B

The first section is sub-Saharan Africa from the eighth to the nineteenth century. It begins with an examination of the different approaches historians have adopted to Africa’s past. It then examines the nature of African societies, the impact of external influences on the continent, and the rise of the medieval West African empires. The second section focuses on the twentieth century.

POLS 2006: Social Theories of Modernity Semester 1 - Slot D

This unit examines the political, social and economic dimensions of modernity and post-modernity. It begins with an introduction to the essential literature on the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment and their effects on western culture. The focus then turns to the principal political and economic institutions of modernity.

POLS 2002: Feminist Theory and Politics Semester 2 - Slot D

Entry Requirements: 18 points on the 1000 level in Political Studies, History or Sociology, or 36 points in Political Studies if proceeding to a major.

This unit introduces students to issues in feminist theory and politics. It begins by exploring philosophical and theoretical debates in feminism. It then examines the rise of women’s movements. In this context, the unit considers issues of “difference” within the politics of the women’s movement and also analyses the debates within the development discourse.

POLS 2012: South Africa: Politics and Governance Semester 2 – Slot B Semester 2 - Slot D

Part one investigates democratic theory and practice in South Africa. The second part of POLS 2012 explores the conflicts and tensions surrounding selected issues in contemporary South African public policy and government. The course aims to help students to understand how the government works, and why policy and governance in the basic education and HIV/AIDS sectors are so highly contested.

POLITICAL STUDIES LEVEL 3000 MODULES

POLS 3003: Development Concepts and Experience Semester 1 - Slot C

This course revolves around two core questions: why have some countries developed successfully over the past five centuries, while others have either failed to develop or stagnated? The second question is: what if any ‘lessons’ for developing countries can be distilled from this model of economic growth? The answers to these questions are not at all straightforward or simplistic. If we have learnt anything from the post-War experience of development, it is just how complex the ‘problem of development’ is.

POLS 3018: Conflict, Stability and State Building in Africa Semester 1 - Slot C

This introduction to political sociology examines some of the most controversial topics in the field. The second part of the unit centres on the study of “global civil society”. Here the key issues addressed are: how we interpret the phenomenon of “global civil society”; the “Battle” of Seattle (November–December 1999) and the Genoa (July 2001) protest; and the significance of the World Social Forum.

POLS 3008: Political Sociology Semester 1 – Slot C Semester 2 - Slot C

This introduction to political sociology examines some of the most controversial topics in the field. The second part of the unit centres on the study of “global civil society”. Here the key issues addressed are: how we interpret the phenomenon of “global civil society”; the “Battle” of Seattle (November–December 1999) and the Genoa (July 2001) protest; and the significance of the World Social Forum.

POLS 3016: The Politics and Ideologies of Redistribution Semester 2- Slot C

This unit examines various theories of social justice as developed in the North and South. It explores the ideological underpinnings of welfare states and developmental states. In so doing it shows the path-dependent nature of redistributive policy. The unit then looks at institutional design and state capacities in different contexts.

POLS 3017: Liberty, Justice and Politics of Difference Semester 2 - Slot C

This unit explores the major developments in normative political theory since the revival of the sub-discipline in the 1970s. Its focus is on the three major themes:

  • The relationship between the citizen and the state
  • Distributive justice
  • Debates regarding citizenship and difference

Students will be introduced to diverse philosophical positions. These include liberalism, conservatism, socialism, anarchism and feminism.

HIST 3003: History of the African City Semester 2 – Slot C Semester 2 - Slot C

African cities predate colonial rule by at least 1000 years. This unit will focus on cities in sub-Saharan Africa. The first part of the unit will be a survey of African urbanization from the emergence of trading centres in West Africa linked to long-distance trade across the Sahara to the modern era of African mega-cities. The second half of the unit focuses on a series of case studies of particular towns, examining in detail their genesis, their social life, their geographical evolution and their politics. Case studies may include Lagos, Johannesburg, Luanda and Kinshasa.



Postgraduate Programmes

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