African studies

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This article is about the study of the African continent. For the journal, see African Studies (journal). For Africana studies in American identity politics, see Africana studies.

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]

United States of America

  • Howard University, undergraduate minor and major in African Studies, Masters in African Studies, PhD in African Studies
  • Florida International University, Masters in African Studies, African Studies Certificates
  • Ohio University, Masters in African Studies
  • Beloit College, African Studies Minor - Interdisciplinary undergraduate minor field of concentration
  • 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.


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






United Kingdom

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.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Library Guides for African Studies[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)