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Human Rights in Africa

Introduction to resources and researching human rights within an African context. Resources highlighted include open access materials as well as those only available to the BU community.

Physical & Online Sources

Please note that this guide may include pointers to some physical resources in the Boston University Libraries that are not accessible to some or all users due to the person's location or due to access changes put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. For additional help, contact the guide author or get general help at 

About This Guide

Photo: Mozambicans in a refugee camp, awaiting food distribution. 1988.‚Äč David Restrick.

  This guide serves as a starting point for research on the topic of human rights in AfricaUse the navigation on the left for access to different types of information.  

.A Complicated Area of Study

 It is critical to look at the history and broader context of any human rights issue. Very rarely are things as simple as they may appear on the surface.

Human Rights Africa guide exampe

You can research background information in a variety of ways. Bibliographies and reference materials can help provide an overview of the country/region/culture/situation.

Historical and ethnographic accounts can give deeper insight into events, circumstances and cultural practices that might inform the issue.

For example, to research the topic to the left, you could consult a bibliography on the subject, David M. Westley’s “Female Circumcision and Infibulation in Africa”  Traditionally bibliographies have been very helpful. Be sure to consult the bibliographies at the backs of the books you find of interest.

For example, Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund’s Female Circumcision in Africa: Culture, Controversy and Change (Boulder CO: Lynn Rienner, 2000). GN484 F443 2000 contains a useful bibliography at the back of their book.  (Note that this is also one of the best books on the subject.)

A current area of study... 

Some human rights issues are long-standing, but many are very recent. You may see reports in newspapers and on social media, but very little in the scholarly/academic world. This is another reason to do more background research – so that you can make an informed assessment of the situation.

Head, African Studies Library

Beth Restrick's picture
Beth Restrick
African Studies Library
6th floor, Mugar Memorial Library

Mon-Fri, 9am- 5pm