Penn State Splits African and African American Studies

The board of trustees of Pennsylvania State University has approved the reorganization of the Department of African and African American Studies in the university’s College of the Liberal Arts. The reorganized entity will now be named the Department of African American Studies. A separate African Studies Program has been established.

Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State, explained, “The department always has been a somewhat uneasy melding of two different intellectual strands. There are, of course, commonalities between the disciplines but they have different scholarly objectives and traditions. In effect, this small department has been trying to cover two huge areas.”

The new African studies program at Penn State will now offer a doctoral program in conjunction with the department of political science.

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  1. This is something good. African Studies and African-American Studies came into being in American institutions owing to different processes. The former came about because of America’s Cold War interest in overseas studies during the 50s and 60s. While the latter came as a result largely of on-campus activism by African-American students during the 60s. As a scholar of Africa and the Diaspora, I find it difficult to navigate studying, researching, and teaching Africa in a Diasporic context. It is a better methodological fit with African-American Studies to be also Diasporic.

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