African studies

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African studies is the study of Africa, especially the continent's cultures and societies (as opposed to its geology, geography, zoology, etc.). The field includes the study of Africa's history (Pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial), demography (ethnic groups), culture, politics, economy, languages, and religion (Islam, Christianity, traditional religions). A specialist in African studies is often referred to as an "Africanist". A key focus of the discipline is to interrogate epistemological approaches, theories and methods in traditional disciplines using a critical lens that inserts African-centred ways of knowing and references.

For Africanists, also known as communitarians, problems within Africa are thought to be caused because the real flesh-and-blood communities that comprise Africa are marginalized from public life as so many "tribes". Therefore, the solution is understood to be the need to defend culture and put Africa's age-old communities at the center of African politics. It is also argued that there is a need to "deexoticize" Africa and banalise it, rather than understand Africa as exceptionalized and exoticized.[1]

Notable deceased Africanists[edit]

University-based centers[edit]

National and transnational centers[edit]



Degree programs[edit]


  • Carleton University, Institute of African Studies - Combined Honours Undergraduate Degrees and Collaborative Masters in African Studies







United Kingdom

United States of America

  • Beloit College, African Studies Minor - Interdisciplinary undergraduate minor field of concentration
  • Florida International University, Masters in African Studies, African Studies Certificates
  • Howard University, undergraduate minor and major in African Studies, Masters in African Studies, PhD in African Studies
  • Ohio University, Masters in African Studies
  • Rutgers University, undergraduate major and minor in African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures, with a regional focus
  • University of Michigan, undergraduate major and minor in Afroamerican and African Studies. Also, a certificate in African Studies for graduate students.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mamdani, M. (1996), Chapter 1 from Mamdani, M., Citizen and Subject: contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism.
  2. ^ Tribute in ACAS Review 89, incl. bibliography (2015)
  3. ^ For the history of African studies in the Netherlands, see Abbink, J.: African studies in the Netherlands: a brief survey, SCOLMA 87, 3-10, 2001
  4. ^ Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade do Porto

Further reading[edit]

  • Gershenhorn, Jerry. “‘Not an Academic Affair’: African American Scholars and the Development of African Studies Programs in the United States, 1942–1960.” Journal of African American History, 94 (Winter 2009), 44–68.
  • Gershenhorn, Jerry. “St. Clair Drake, Pan-Africanism, African Studies, and the Politics of Knowledge, 1945-1965.” Journal of African American History, 98 (Summer 2013), 422-433.

External links[edit]

Library Guides for African Studies[edit]