HOW TO TEACH ABOUT AFRICA: HOW TO LEARN ABOUT THE UNITED STATES: THE AFRICAN DEMOCRACY PROJECT AND THE DESIGN OF MULTI-SITED PEDAGOGY
In 2009, The Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society (FOCIS) of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan (USA) initiated The African Democracy Project (ADP) in which high-achieving undergraduate students from diverse academic disciplines undertook a series of courses which explored how democracy was emerging in selected countries of Mozambique, Botswana, and Liberia. Almost fifty students enrolled in this unique educational opportunity designed to facilitate students’ deeper understanding of governance in Africa, exploring theories of civil conflict, democratization and democratic institutions. Given the nature of the project purpose, ADP fits well within the conference topic area of “global issues in education and research”.
The course encourages students to apply the critical tools of analysis developed through their study of African democracy to their own local systems of governance in the United States. As such, the course requires students to take a ‘glocal’ approach to the study of democracy worldwide. Issues central to understanding the functioning of African democracy such as minority rights, equal access to state institutions, and fair distribution of state resources are re-examined with respect to local governance. Through this process, students are expected to think critically about the United States’ system of governance even as they study governmental processes elsewhere.
This critical engagement is facilitated through a pedagogical design that emphasizes multi-sited pedagogy. Drawing from anthropological pedagogical methods that incorporate multi-sited ethnography, multi-sited pedagogy emphasizes that learning takes place not only through multiple geographic spaces (i.e. Botswana and Detroit) but also through multiple platforms (i.e. the internet, the classroom, the field site). In this paper, we will explore how we worked to create a multi-sited pedagogy, and the rewards and challenges of this approach in meeting the course objectives.