The field of Africana Studies emerged from the freedom movements of the 1960s. It appeared as African diaspora studies and as area studies in the first half of the 20th century. Since the 1960s Africana Studies has been presented within the academy as Black Studies, Afro-American Studies, and African and African American Studies.
Africana Studies often stands in critical relation to other disciplines and fields because of its premise that the vast experiences of people of Africa and the African Diaspora are important and worthy of critical exploration and engagement, and its valuing of black experience and knowledge as essential rather than peripheral. Africana Studies seeks to expand our knowledge of black experience broadly, while intervening in discourses that omit the experiences of blacks throughout the diaspora, or seek to ignore, suppress, and marginalize the long history of racism and oppression of black peoples. To that end, Africana Studies utilizes multi- and interdisciplinary approaches, methods, and theories to illustrate the diverse experiences of African-descended peoples, including but not limited to national, transnational, and diasporic perspectives.
The Africana Studies Department builds knowledge about communities throughout the African Diaspora by way of interdisciplinary analyses of black embodiment in contemporary spaces—which may take the form of cultural expressions in theater, literature, music, and religion; political strivings and imaginations; displacement and annihilation under environmental distress; and representations in, and creations of, new technologies. Several learning objectives unify our teaching in Africana Studies:
- to introduce students to the content and contours of Africana Studies as a long-standing and vibrant field of knowledge;
- to disrupt the peripheral placement of peoples of African descent in traditional disciplines by using interdisciplinary methods to center their histories, experiences, and perspectives;
- to illuminate the vast range, power, and influence of Black cultural productions;
- to parse out the deep roots of grassroots activism that dismantles innumerable manifestations of anti-black racism both within and beyond communities of African descent;
- to understand rich intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality, both historically and in contemporary societies.