Summer: Rutgers- History, Memory and Culture in Benin


Program Overview

Language(s) of Instruction
Class Standing
Rising Sophomore
Good academic standing

Applicants must have appropriate prior coursework (see associated course list).

This program is not running in 2021.



Program Advisor

The Program

Explore the African side of the Atlantic World.

Students spend two weeks in Benin based at our sister institution, the Ecole du Patrimoine Africaine.  In partnership with our Beninois colleagues, faculty and students will explore how trans-Atlantic connections have shaped religion, language, and identity; the relationship between tourism and historical memory; and the dynamism of the contemporary art scene.  The program includes visits to historic sites involved in the Atlantic slave trade with a view to understanding how history and memory are commemorated through place and cultural performance.  Elements include trips to major sites with local specialists, intensive language exchange in the mornings, and lectures by local faculty and practitioners specializing in historic preservation, history of language and religion, the economics of tourism, and art in Benin. 

benin Sign

Program Locations

Benin School


Porto Novo

Porto Novo is the capital of Benin and the second largest city. Porto Novo is a fascinating city where a unique creole Aguda culture emerged bridging the worlds of Benin and Brazil.  The environmentally restored Royal Forest is now a public garden with a pleasant restaurant.


This fourteen-day study trip occurs during the Summer Term at Rutgers, May 19 through June 2, 2020. Not including travel time, students spend two weeks in Benin learning about specific historic sites with a view to understanding how history and memory are commemorated, the kinds of debates that arise around place and material culture, the economy of history and religion, and the relationship between tourism and historical memory. Elements include trips to major sites with local specialists; intensive language exchange; and lectures by local faculty and practitioners specializing in historic preservation, history of religion, the economics of tourism, and art in Benin.

Carnet de voyage: Students will be graded on a handwritten “Travel Diary” submitted in a bound notebook at the close of the trip. Each evening students will read a short reading and record in their notebooks at least three questions for our meeting the following day. Internet access in Benin can be unpredictable—this low tech approach will provide our students an opportunity to think with pen in hand. At the close of the trip students must submit their travel diaries with the daily questions as well as their notes in light of the day’s discussion and/or trip. Students may wish to include other items as well (drawings, paper souvenirs, lyrics to songs—whatever catches their interest during the trip). The notebook will be returned to them once it has been graded.

This program is open to any student with an interest in the region and topic, as evidenced through prior coursework in Latin American, Caribbean, African, Public History OR Museum Studies. Students with an interest in the French language who would like to experience the francophone world outside France are particularly invited to apply. French is not required, however, as lectures will be conducted in English. Nevertheless, students will be immersed in a French-speaking environment and will have many opportunities to speak French. There will also be opportunities for language exchange English/French and English/Fon with the West African students of the Ecole du Patrimoine Africaine.

Relevant coursework:

All participants will need to have taken at least one course on Africa, the Latin America/Caribbean, or Cultural Heritage in order to participate. Students of the French language are also encouraged to apply. Examples of relevant courses include (but not limited to):

01:506:114 World Civilizations: Europe, Africa, and America (Cooper, History)

506: 082 Cultural Heritage Preservation (Al Kuntar; History and Art History)

016:224 Women and Gender in African History (Brown; History, WGS)

595:280 Topics in Latino and Caribbean Studies: “Haitians in the Diaspora” (Marcellus; LCS)

595:280 Topics in Latino and Caribbean Studies: “Global Citizen: NGOs in Haiti” (Marcellus: LCS)

013: 211 Introduction to Literature of Africa (Mazrui; AMESALL)

014:210 Africa: Continent of the Future? (Johnson; Africana)

070:243 Anthropology of Africa (Sodikoff; Anthropology)

082:285 Arts of Africa (Pierce, Art History)

420:202 Aspects of Francophone Cultures (Boucher, French)

Housing and Meals

While in Porto Novo students will be living at the Centre Songhai Integrated Development Project guesthouses, where they will be able to explore the multi-dimensioned project and interact with African students studying at the center. Meals are not included.

Financial Information

Program Costs

This is the billed amount that will appear on your Rutgers term bill during the term you study abroad.
NJ Resident non-NJ Resident
Undergraduate $1,220 $1,320
Graduate $1,280 $1,370
Program Cost includes:

•    Tuition 
•    Housing
•    Excursions
•    Administrative Fees
•    International SOS Health Insurance

Out-of-Pocket Costs

These are estimated expenses that are not part of your term bill. Students will need to pay for these expenses out-of-pocket.
Airfare $1,750
Meals $250
Personal Expenses $300
*Yellow Fever Vaccine Required 0
Total $2,300.00
Out-of-Pocket Cost includes:

The above costs are estimations and represent the known out-of-pocket costs students encounter during their time abroad. 
Some of these expenses will be paid for prior to going abroad, such as an airline ticket, while some of these expenses, such as meals and personal expenses, will be paid in-country as part of your daily expenses. As you plan, you will need to budget these costs and spend wisely throughout your time abroad.

*Cost will depend upon your health insurance coverage. Visitors to Benin should also carry the WHO Yellow Card (“Carte Jaune”) indicating that they have been vaccinated for yellow fever. Visit the Center for Disease Control website for more information.


Available to all Rutgers students participating in a Rutgers Global–Study Abroad program. Applications can be found inside of your study abroad program application. For more information, please visit the Scholarship section of our website.

Faculty Leaders

Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown is a specialist in the history of West Africa who has been engaged with the Slave Routes Project funded by UNESCO and more recently with a project to bring together local historians from Timbuktu, Mali with local historians of two historically black towns named Timbuktu here in New Jersey and New York.

Barbara Cooper

Barbara Cooper is a historian of French speaking Africa. Her doctoral work at the African Studies Center of Boston University exposed her to the Hausa language, the political economy of agriculture, and the anthropology of gender. Professor Cooper’s research draws upon both oral and archival sources to reconstruct the social and cultural history of West Africa. Her focus is on the former French colonies of the Sahel, particularly Niger, where she has conducted fieldwork for thirty years. She is the author of three books and numerous articles and chapters on the history of Niger and the Sahel.

Frank Ogou

Franck Ogou  is the Director of the Ecole du Patrimoine Africaine, in the garden of Hotel Bis in Abomey.