The mission of the Department of African Cultural Studies is to research and teach the languages and expressive cultures of Africa and Africans around the world. This includes work at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and emphasizes the development and application of analytical, linguistic, and methodological tools that enable students to work effectively and imaginatively across regions, languages, cultural forms, methodologies, and disciplines.

Undergraduates study one of six languages offered by the department—Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, Wolof, Yoruba, and Zulu—and combine their language study with popular courses in the humanities, literature, and ethnic studies. The department's undergraduate courses cover a wide range of topics, including introductory African literature and storytelling, contemporary cinema and music, and social issues ranging from gender and sexuality to whiteness to diasporic internet use. 

Majors are encouraged to study abroad in Africa during their undergraduate careers. Study abroad programs sponsored by UW–Madison include semesters or full years in Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, and other African nations. Other programs are available through different institutions. See International Academic Programs and visit the Majors Advising Page.

For more information, students should feel free to contact the Department of African Cultural Studies or the advisor at any time.

Declaring the major in African cultural studies is as easy as meeting with the advisor. Make an appointment today.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language

Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 86th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non–L&S degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

Principal African languages taught by the department are Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, Wolof, Yoruba, and Zulu. The program supports the study of various other African languages through courses and/or individualized study.

Requirements for the Major

 30 credits and eight courses as follows:


4th unit of one African language4
Fourth Semester Arabic
Fourth Semester Swahili
Fourth Semester-A Language of Southern Africa
Fourth Semester Yoruba
Fourth Semester-A Language of West Africa
Total Credits4

Culture STudies

AFRICAN 100 Introduction to African Cultural Expression3
One 200-level course:3-4
Introduction to African Literature
The African Storyteller
The African Autobiography
Introduction to African Popular Culture
HipHop, Youth Culture, and Politics in Senegal
Introduction to Yoruba Life and Culture
Introduction to Arabic Literary Culture
Introduction to Swahili Cultures
Global HipHop and Social Justice
The Hero and Trickster in African Oral Traditions
Africa: An Introductory Survey
African and African-American Linkages: An Introduction
AFRICAN 403 Theories of African Cultural Studies3
AFRICAN 405 Topics in African Cultural Studies3
One from:3-4
African Literature in Translation
African Literature and Visual Culture
Islam: Religion and Culture
Theory of African Literature
Topics in African Literature
Topics in African Languages
Contemporary African Fiction
Contemporary African and Caribbean Drama
African/Francophone Film
Lusophone African Literature
Modern African Literature in English
Oral Traditions and the Written Word
Language and Society in Africa
Structure and Analysis of African Languages
One course outside the department or 6th unit of African language3-4
Outside courses:
Introduction to African Art and Architecture
Undergraduate Studies in Afro-American History
The Caribbean and its Diasporas
Art and Visual Culture: Women of the African Diaspora and Africa
Prehistory of Africa
Undergraduate Seminar (Culture and Health in Africa)
Introduction to African Art and Architecture
Art and History in Africa
Proseminar in African Art
Agricultural and Economic Development in Africa
Introduction to Black Women's Studies
Artistic/Cultural Images of Black Women
Art and Visual Culture: Women of the African Diaspora and Africa
Africa, South of the Sahara
Introduction to the History of Africa
The Historian's Craft (Roman Africa)
Africans in the Americas, 1492-1808
Afro-Atlantic History, 1808-Present
History of Africa, 1500 to 1870
History of Africa Since 1870
History of East Africa
History of Equatorial Africa
Introduction to Luso-Afro-Brazilian Literature
In Translation: The Art of Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen
Cultural Cross Currents: West African Dance/Music in the Americas
African Politics
Gender and Politics in Comparative Perspective
African International Relations
Lusophone African Literature
6th-unit language courses:
Advanced Studies in Swahili Language-Readings
Sixth Semester Arabic
Sixth Semester Yoruba
Sixth Semester, A Language of Southern Africa
Sixth Semester, A Language of Northern Africa
Sixth Semester, A Language of West Africa
Total Credits18-21


Credits in any African Language or Culture Studies course (listed above) or any of the following courses to achieve 30 credits and eight courses in the major:

AFRICAN 323 Third Semester Arabic4
AFRICAN 333 Third Semester Swahili4
AFRICAN 337 Third Semester-A Language of Southern Africa4
AFRICAN 373 Third Semester Yoruba4
AFRICAN 475 Fifth Semester Yoruba3
AFRICAN 493 Fifth Semester, A Language of Southern Africa3
AFRICAN 495 Fifth Semester, A Language of Northern Africa3

Residence and quality of work

2.000 GPA in all AFRICAN and major courses

2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence 1

15 credits in AFRICAN, taken on the UW–Madison campus

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the African Cultural Studies Major in consultation with the African Cultural Studies undergraduate advisor. To be admitted to the Honors Program in African Cultural Studies, students must have achieved a 3.300 university GPA and a 3.300 GPA in all AFRICAN courses as well as all courses accepted in the major.

Honors in the African Cultural Studies Major Requirements

To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in African Cultural Studies students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  1. Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  2. Earn 3.300 GPA in all AFRICAN courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  3. Complete a minimum of 15 credits in the major for Honors while in residence at UW–Madison from the following:
       a. 9 credits in courses numbered 200 and above
       b. A two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in AFRICAN 681 and AFRICAN 682, for a total of 6 credits.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. (Content) Recognize canonical authors and texts, historical forms, genres, and structures, and recognize aesthetic and cultural concerns in Africa and its diasporas.
  2. (Content) Demonstrate their understanding of major theories, approaches, concepts, and current and classical research findings in African and diaspora literary and cultural studies.
  3. (Content) Develop a level of proficiency in the different “ways of knowing” Africa and the diaspora through language, literatures, and cultures.
  4. (Research Skills) Understand their own learning processes and possess the capacity to intentionally seek, evaluate, and learn from information, and recognize and reduce bias in their thinking.
  5. (Research Skills) Effectively retrieve and comprehend primary sources in English and African languages, and secondary sources from a range of disciplines.
  6. (Communication Skills) Develop or improve speaking, listening, writing, reading skills in an African language, and integrate these skills to communicate effectively.
  7. (Communication Skills) Communicate effectively through essays, oral presentations, and discussion, so they may share their knowledge, wisdom, and values with others across social and professional settings.
  8. (Communication Skills) Show knowledge of conventional rhetorical strategies, and integrate research by other authors while distinguishing between their own ideas and those of others.
  9. (Communication Skills) Write and speak across disciplinary boundaries with regard to existing research about Africa and the diaspora in the humanities and social sciences.
  10. (Analytical Skills) Discuss cultural texts from various theoretical and critical perspectives, formulate ideas and make connections between literary/cultural concepts and themes.
  11. (Analytical Skills) Demonstrate command of the terminology and methodology of cultural studies, construct complex arguments, and use primary and secondary sources to support arguments.
First Year
First semester African language5Second semester African language5
Communication Part A (complete during first year)3Quatitative Reasoning Part A (complete during first year)3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
 14 14
Second Year
Third semester African language4Fourth semester African language4
AFRICAN 20123AFRICAN/​FOLKLORE  210 or 30033
L&S Breadth3Quantitative Reasoning Part B3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
 16 16
Third Year
300-599 level African course3AFRICAN 4053
L&S Breadth3Elective3
 15 15
Fourth Year
AFRICAN 4033Elective course outside the Department3
 15 15
Total Credits 120


How does the major in African cultural studies fit into my educational goals?

While there are a wide variety of reasons to visit your major advisor, there seem to be two recurring questions:

1. Can I complete the major during the time I have left at UW?
2. Which classes will be offered in the future?

If you like to plan, seeing your major advisor is very important; it can make the difference between fitting in Contemporary Arabic Literature and Culture and Global HipHop and Social Justice before you graduate. Many students also try to complete more than one major or certificate, and discussing how you might be able to reach this goal is another primary role of your major advisor. Advisors can speak to you about course content, which courses fit best with your interest areas, and what kinds of courses might work best with your learning style—e.g., do you prefer multiple choice or essays? Any and all of these discussions can occur during your advising appointment.

In addition to discussing the major, advisors also know a lot about:

  • General Education requirements
  • Breadth requirements
  • Interpreting university policies and deadlines
  • Connecting majors to careers
  • Getting involved with campus organizations
  • Finding volunteer and/or internship opportunities
  • Talking about your challenges and difficulties
  • Connecting with tutors
  • Picking a study abroad program
  • Practicing for interviews
  • Talking about graduate school
  • Proofreading resumes and cover letters

Ready to meet with the ACS advisor?  Make an appointment today.


While many students have a difficult time believing it, a humanities major such as ours enables students who complete it to consider just about any type of career or educational pursuit.  Our coursework builds the critical thinking and communication skills needed to succeed in careers ranging from politics and education to business and law.   

Think about what you learn in a classroom setting as well as what you do each day to be a successful student; the skills you develop are equally important in the workplace:

  • critical reading, reflection, and analysis
  • proper research design and methodology 
  • expanded world view and exposure to new ideas/ways of thinking 
  • effective teamwork to advance a common project/purpose
  • effective time-management and self-motivation to complete projects independently
  • demonstrated writing proficiency in short and long essay format
  • discussion and debate strategies 
  • broader knowledge of career and graduate-study options

One of the more significant skills majors develop is language acquisition. Your study of an African language sets you apart and demonstrates your willingness to explore and expand your understanding of history and culture.  In addition, the study of these less commonly taught languages shows discipline and perseverance.

Overall, you will have a wide variety of skills and talents to start you on the path to a rewarding career!

Visit our website for more information.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.


To view full faculty profiles, visit our website.

Matthew H. Brown: African screen media (particularly "Nollywood"), oral traditions, literature
Vlad Dima: French New Wave cinema, Francophone cinemas, film theory, television studies
Ainehi Edoro: Form, theory, and history of the African novel
Névine El Nossery: Francophone & Middle Eastern literature and culture, postcolonial studies
Samuel England: Classical Arabic poetry and prose, modern Arabic literature
Luis Madureira: Colonial and postcolonial studies, modernism, theater and performance
Jacqueline-Bethel Mougoué: African gender studies, body politics, African feminisms, political and religious movements
Tejumola Olaniyan:  African, African American, and Caribbean literature and culture
Ronald Radano: Ethnomusicology, US Black music and its transnational circulation
Reginold Royston: Africana cultural studies, new media and sound studies, philosophy and history of information and communications technology, diaspora and transnationalism
Damon Sajnani: Africana cultural studies, social and political theory, HipHop studies
Katrina Daly Thompson: African discourse, ethnographic approaches to language use, language pedagogy, gender, sexuality, Islam

Emeritus FACULTY

Patrick Bennett
Dustin Cowell
Jo Ellen Fair
Magdalena Hauner
Linda Hunter
Edris Makward
Michael Schatzberg
Harold Scheub
Aliko Songolo


Adeola Agoke: Acting Language Program Director
Bill Bach: Department Administrator
Toni Landis: Academic Advisor/Student Services Coordinator
Mustafa Mustafa: Arabic Instructor

Resources for language learners

One of the most valuable resources for students interested in language study is the Language Institute and its website, Languages at UW–Madison.

Learn more about scholarships and other opportunities for funded language study.