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Africana Studies Sequence

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“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

—Carter G. Woodson, 1875 -1950

 

The Africana Studies Sequence (originally Black Studies Sequence) inherited the legacy of the Black Studies Movement of the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies that gave birth to the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter College.

Our sequence was strongly influenced by the work and spirit of the late Professor John Henrik Clarke, the first professor to be brought in by the students who had a dominant role in the department's development. Professor Clarke was, at the time, the pre-eminent elder figure of Pan-Africanist scholarship-activism. His intellectual commitment in the early development of the department placed us close to the center of the Black Studies Movement. 

This movement has been dynamic as it has grown conceptually, that is, theoretically, and in breadth. "Black Studies" has become "African" or "Africana Studies," as people of African descent throughout the Diaspora have identified with its intellectual and political energy.

The growth of our sequence has reflected these tendencies. As we assess our own development, certain themes become identifiable as characteristics of our work.

Africana Studies as a "discipline" seeks to study, interpret, explain, and articulate the cultural, historical, political, economic, and spiritual experience of people of African descent throughout the world.

  • Africana Studies is "Pan-Africanist" in approach and focus, seeking to emphasize the connections between African peoples and their cultures throughout the world, while acknowledging the differences that have evolved because of historical realities, geographical location, specific forms of colonial oppression, and cultural interaction.
  • The African-centered perspective of the sequence implies an approach to reality which begins with the African and African-Diasporic experience. Its presupposition is that the meaning of that experience cannot be determined without reference to Africa as the source, its point of origin. As such, our sequence is lodged firmly within the African-Centered Movement; a liberatory and intellectual movement born out of the struggle, conflict, and victory of the decolonization process.
  • Using this approach as our frame of reference, people of African descent become actively involved as agents of change, rather than passive objects of study. We therefore encourage our students and each other to participate in the process of thinking about and helping to determine the meaning of the African experience. This has connected us to the process of redefinition and re-conceptualization that places Africana Studies in the vanguard of intellectual development in this nation. Our faculty has been at the forefront of the movement of African people to recapture their traditional languages and to develop innovative theoretical constructs.
  • Furthermore, our sequence brings together scholars trained in the traditional disciplines of anthropology, history, political science, and literature, and who share a perspective which unites us in the ability to see beyond the limiting confines which artificially separate one area of human experience from another. We have chosen to be in Africana Studies because of the vision that we share. Africana Studies provides us with the space to pursue this unique vision.

Learn more about the Africana teaching philosophy >


Curriculum

The Africa component of the Africana Sequence of the department is the foundation of African Studies in general. As Africa is the original home of all Africans and the setting for the conception, establishment and consolidation of her philosophical, political, economic, religious, social and cultural institutions and systems over the centuries, the study of Africa provides the necessary grounding for understanding the Africana world. The department offers courses in African history, civilization, literature, political science, religion and on women in Africa. The combined humanities and social science range of the courses helps to give students a broad liberal education. The varied theoretical and pedagogical frameworks which they entail introduce students to varied modes of appreciation and tools of critical analysis. This is especially important because the study and understanding of Africa, in the light of existing modes of interpretation and representation which largely misrepresent Africa, requires the conscious search for and formulation of indigenously grounded - Africacentric - modes of understanding and frameworks of analysis which enables students to understand these societies in their own terms and not as flawed and undeveloped examples of other societies. The courses are generally adequate as introductory and specialized offerings. However, it is necessary to consider offering new courses on new themes and on specific countries. This can be done, for example, by choosing some countries in different regions to illustrate specific as well as general African experiences. The existing and future courses of the Africa section are designed to deepen understanding of the African experience in all its complexity, similarity and variety at the source in Africa. This thereby prepares students to understand commonalities and variety of the African experience within Africa and in the Diaspora. 

African-Caribbean Studies is an integral part of the Africana Sequence in the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies. Courses offered are in history, politics, literature, anthropology and economics. The African-Caribbean courses are included in the Africana sequence because we consider the Caribbean, particularly the English speaking, French speaking, and Dutch speaking areas, represents one sector of the African Diaspora. Caribbean societies share a common history with African peoples in the United States especially up to emancipation. The post-emancipation period experience also demonstrates a high degree of similarity, but at the same time, it provides an interesting contrast in terms of the effects of colonialism and racism on two African groups in the Americas. Caribbean Studies at Hunter also focuses on the interaction, conflicts and cooperation between Caribbean migrants and their American counterparts in the United States. There are several courses in the Africana Sequence which offer a bridge between African-Americans and Africa, the African-Caribbean and/or people of the Spanish speaking Caribbean.

The African American component of the Africana Sequence seeks to give students the basis with which to understand and analyze the African American experience through the study of contributions made to and challenges faced in American society. It is comprised of courses representing the academic disciplines of anthropology, history, literature, political science and sociology with a time range from the African heritage to the present. A course on African-American music is available through cross-listing with the Music Department. There are also several courses in the Africana Sequence that provide a bridge between African-Americans, Africa and other members of the African Diaspora. Through our 290 and 390 experimental designations, we have been able to offer a number of courses that are not part of the established curriculum. This affords us the opportunity to offer courses that represent new concerns and interests in the African-American experience. It also allows us to conduct trial runs of courses that we feel should become part of the permanent curriculum. 

Learn more about the Africana Studies Curriculum >

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