A globe with the continent of Africa at the center

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.

Declaring the Major

Declaring the major in African Cultural Studies is as easy as meeting with the advisor. Find the African Cultural Studies advisor on Starfish.

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 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.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Complete the University General Education Requirements for Quantitative Reasoning A (QR-A) and Quantitative Reasoning B (QR-B) coursework.
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.
L&S Breadth
  • 12 credits of Humanities, which must include 6 credits of literature; and
  • 12 credits of Social Science; and
  • 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include one 3+ credit Biological Science course and one 3+ credit Physical Science course.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work Complete at least 60 credits at the intermediate or advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience
  • 30 credits in residence, overall; and
  • 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work
  • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
  • 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level 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. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

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 seven courses as follows:


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

Literature/Culture STudies

Core course:3
Introduction to African Cultural Expression
Two courses in literature/culture at the Intermediate level (or higher):6-8
The Hero and Trickster in African Oral Traditions
Africa: An Introductory Survey
African Literature in Translation
Arabic Literature and Cinema
African Literature and Visual Culture
Soccer in Africa
Islam: Religion and Culture
Theory of African Literature
Topics in African Literature
Topics in African Languages
Topics in US and Global Black Music Studies
Contemporary African Fiction
Contemporary African and Caribbean Drama
Islam in Africa and the Diaspora
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
Advanced Topics in African Cultural Studies
Advanced Topics in African Literature
Advanced Topics in Global Black Music Studies
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Directed Study
Directed Study
Undergraduate Studies in Afro-American History
Cultural Cross Currents: West African Dance/Music in the Americas
The Caribbean and its Diasporas
Art and Visual Culture: Women of the African Diaspora and Africa
Agricultural and Economic Development in Africa
Prehistory of Africa
Art and History in Africa
Proseminar in African Art
Cultural Cross Currents: West African Dance/Music in the Americas
Agricultural and Economic Development in Africa
Art and Visual Culture: Women of the African Diaspora and Africa
Gender and Politics in Comparative Perspective
Africa, South of the Sahara
Africans in the Americas, 1492-1808
Afro-Atlantic History, 1808-Present
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
Two additional courses in literature/culture at any level, including those above or from:6-8
Introduction to African Literature
Introductory Topics in African Cultural Studies
Introductory Topics in African Literature
Introductory Topics in African Languages
The African Storyteller
Introduction to African Popular Culture
Modern and Contemporary Francophone Topics
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
African and African-American Linkages: An Introduction
Introduction to Black Women's Studies
Introduction to African Art and Architecture
Artistic/Cultural Images of Black Women
Introduction to African Art and Architecture
Introduction to Black Women's Studies
Artistic/Cultural Images of Black Women
One from:3
Topics in African Cultural Studies
Theories of African Cultural Studies
Total Credits18-22


Credits in addition to the required seven courses listed above to achieve 30 credits in the major:

AFRICAN 275 Lead with Languages: Putting Language Skills to Work1
AFRICAN 321 First Semester Arabic5
AFRICAN 322 Second Semester Arabic5
AFRICAN 323 Third Semester Arabic4
AFRICAN 331 First Semester Swahili5
AFRICAN 332 Second Semester Swahili5
AFRICAN 333 Third Semester Swahili4
AFRICAN 335 First Semester-A Language of Southern Africa5
AFRICAN 336 Second Semester-A Language of Southern Africa4-5
AFRICAN 337 Third Semester-A Language of Southern Africa4
AFRICAN 339 First Semester Summer Arabic4
AFRICAN 340 Second Semester Summer Arabic4
AFRICAN 341 Third Semester Summer Arabic4
AFRICAN 343 Fifth Semester Summer Arabic4
AFRICAN 344 Sixth Semester Summer Arabic4
AFRICAN 361 First Semester Hausa5
AFRICAN 362 Second Semester Hausa4-5
AFRICAN 371 First Semester Yoruba5
AFRICAN 372 Second Semester Yoruba5
AFRICAN 373 Third Semester Yoruba4
AFRICAN 391 First Semester-A Language of West Africa5
AFRICAN 392 Second Semester-A Language of West Africa4-5
AFRICAN 393 Third Semester-A Language of West Africa4
AFRICAN 475 Fifth Semester Yoruba3
AFRICAN 493 Fifth Semester, A Language of Southern Africa3
AFRICAN 325 Colloquial Arabic2
AFRICAN 326 Colloquial Arabic2
AFRICAN 329 Fifth Semester Arabic3
AFRICAN 330 Sixth Semester Arabic3
AFRICAN 435 Fifth Semester Swahili3
AFRICAN 436 Sixth Semester Swahili3
AFRICAN 476 Sixth Semester Yoruba3
AFRICAN 681 Senior Honors Thesis3
AFRICAN 682 Senior Honors Thesis3
AFRICAN 698 Directed Study1-6
AFRICAN 699 Directed Study1-6

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.



Courses with Intermediate or Advanced level are considered upper level in this major.

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.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

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
Biological Science Breadth3Physical Science Breadth3
 14 14
Second Year
Third semester African language4Fourth semester African language4
AFRICAN 201, 202, 203, or 20423One literature/culture course at intermediate/advanced level3
Social Science Breadth3Quantitative Reasoning Part B3
Science Breadth3Social Science Breadth3
Elective3Science Breadth3
 16 16
Third Year
One literature/culture course at intermediate/advanced level3AFRICAN 403 or 4053
Social Science Breadth3Elective3
 15 15
Fourth Year
AFRICAN elective to reach 30 credits3AFRICAN elective to reach 30 credits3
 15 15
Total Credits 120

 Fulfills Ethnic Studies, Social Science OR Humanities requirement


 Fulfills Communication Part B, Literature OR Humanities requirement


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 Soccer in Africa 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. 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 academic challenges and difficulties
  • Connecting with tutors
  • Picking a study abroad program
  • Practicing for interviews
  • Talking about graduate school
  • Proofreading résumés and cover letters

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


Humanities majors develop a wide variety of skills and talents, so they're prepared for 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.   

One of the more significant skills ACS majors develop is language acquisition.  We offer a number of funding opportunities to support language study, small class sizes with more opportunity for participation and cultural exchange, unique study abroad and international internship experiences, and our instructors are native speakers with a keen interest in teaching. Plus, UW-Madison ranks #1 in the nation for students earning a bachelor's degree in language other than English!

You should consider 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

Count on being well-prepared for an exciting and rewarding career!

Visit our website for more information.

L&S career resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.

Please visit the African Cultural Studies website for a complete list of faculty, instructional, and academic staff.

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.