Africana studies

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Africana studies, black studies or Africology,[1] in US education, is the multidisciplinary study of the histories, politics and cultures of peoples of African origin in both Africa and the African diaspora.

It is to be distinguished from African studies, as its focus combines Africa and the African diaspora into a concept of an "African experience" with a Pan-African perspective.[2] In essence, Africana studies and black studies are interchangeable terms stressing black studies in a global and comparative sense, whereas African-American studies emphasizes the African-American experience. Programs of study range from interdepartmental programs to autonomous departments, and are offered from the undergraduate through the doctoral levels. In many institutions, Africana studies research and study takes place in departments combining African and African-American studies.

Africana studies departments at many major universities grew out of the black studies programs and departments formed in the late 1960s in the context of the US Civil Rights Movement, as black studies programs were reformed and renamed "Africana studies," with an aim to encompass the continent of Africa and all of the African diaspora using terminology rooted in geography and history rather than race. The first "Africana" studies department was formed after the Willard Straight Hall takeover at Cornell University, an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York.

The African-American historian and emeritus professor from this department, Robert L. Harris, offers a useful definition of the field in Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley and Claudine Michel's anthology The Black Studies Reader: "Africana Studies is the multidisciplinary analysis of the lives and thought of people of African ancestry on the African continent and throughout the world. It embraces Africa, Afro-America, and the Caribbean, but does not confine itself to those three geographical areas. Africana studies examines people of African ancestry wherever they may be found—for example, in Central and South America, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Its primary means of organization are racial and cultural. Many of the themes of Africana studies are derived from the historical position of African peoples in relation to Western societies and in the dynamics of slavery, oppression, colonization, imperialism, emancipation, self-determination, liberation, and socioeconomic and political development." Thus, it can be described[by whom?] as a "scholarship of compromise and acquiescence", contrasting with the historical black studies which were motivated by the struggle for civil rights.[3][4]


A specific aim and objective of this interdisciplinary field of study is to help students broaden their knowledge of the worldwide human experience by presenting an aspect of that experience—the Black Experience—which has traditionally been neglected or distorted by educational institutions. Additionally, this course of study strives to introduce an Afro-centric perspective including phenomena related to the culture. According to Robert Harris Jr, an emeritus professor of history at the Africana Studies Research Center at Cornell, there have been four stages in the development of Africana studies: from the 1890s until the Second World War numerous organizations developed to analyze the culture and history of African peoples (African studies). In the second stage the focus turned to African Americans (Afro-American studies). In the third stage a bevy of newly conceived academic programs were established as Black studies.[4]

Unlike the other stages, Black studies grew out of mass rebellions of black college students and faculty in search of a scholarship of change. The fourth stage, the new name "Africana studies" involved a theoretical elaboration of the discipline of black studies according to African cultural reclamation and disparate tenets in the historical and cultural issues of Africanity within a professorial interpretation of the interactions between these fields and college administrations.[4]

Thus Africana studies reflected the mellowing and institutionalization of the black studies movement in the course of its integration into the mainstream academic curriculum. Black studies and Africana studies differ primarily in that Africana studies focuses on Africanity and the historical and cultural issues of Africa and its descendants while Black studies was designed to deal with the uplift and development of the black (African-American) community in relationship to education and its "relevance" to the black community. The adaptation of the term "Africana studies" appears to have derived from the encyclopedia work of W. E. B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson. James Turner, who was recruited from graduate school at Northwestern on the heels of the student rebellions of 1969, first used the term to describe a global approach to Black studies and name the "Africana Studies and Research Center" at Cornell, where he acted as the founding director.[5]

Studia Africana, subtitled "An International Journal of Africana Studies", was published by the Department for African American Studies at the University of Cincinnati in a single issue in 1977 (an unrelated journal called Studia Africana is published by the Centro de Estudios Africanos, Barcelona, since 1990). The International Journal of Africana Studies (ISSN 1056-8689) has been appearing since 1992, published by the National Council for Black Studies.


  • The Black Scholar (since 1969)
  • The Journal of African Civilizations (since 1979)
  • International Journal of Africana Studies – designed to interrogate and analyze the lived experiences of Africana people.
  • Africana – Journal of Ideas on Africa and the Diaspora
  • Electronic Journal of Africana Bibliography – coverage includes any aspect of Africa, its peoples, their homes, cities, towns, districts, states, countries, regions, including social, economic sustainable development, creative literature, the arts, and the Diaspora.
  • Africana Online: Journal of the Africana Center for Cultural Literacy and Research
  • Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies [1] (since 1987)
  • Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art – focuses on publishing critical work that examines the newly developing field of contemporary African and African Diaspora art within the modernist and postmodernist experience, thereby contributing to the intellectual dialogue on world art and the discourse on internationalism and multiculturalism in the arts.
  • Afro-Americans in New York Life and History (since 1976)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Africology and You", University of Milwaukee Archived 2007-10-26 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley, Claudine Michel, "Introduction," The Black Studies Reader. NY: Routledge, 2004.
  3. ^ Delores P. Aldridge, Carlene Young, Out of the Revolution: The Development of Africana Studies, Lexington Books, 2000. ISBN 0-7391-0547-7.
  4. ^ a b c Robert l. Harris Jr, "The Intellectual and Institutional Development of Africana Studies", in Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley, Claudine Michel, The Black Studies Reader, p. 15. ISBN 0-415-94554-2.
  5. ^ Jonathan Fenderson, "The Black Studies Tradition and the Mappings of Our Common Intellectual Project", in Western Journal of Black Studies, Volume 33, No. 1 (2009), pp. 46–58.

Further reading[edit]

  • Talmadge Anderson, Introduction to African American Studies, Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1993. ISBN 0-7872-3268-8.
  • Maulana Karenga, Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles: The University of Sankore Press, 1993. ISBN 0-943412-16-1.
  • Zulu, Itibari M, "Africana Studies: Post Black Studies Vagrancy in Academe". The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.7, October 2012, pp. 3–8.

External links[edit]