The African studies program at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, was established more than a half century ago. Now for the first time, it will be an academic department at the college.
The new department will be interdisciplinary where students learn about how the modern world came into existence throughout the African continent, and the worldwide African diaspora, as well as the significant roles Africa and the African diaspora (which includes the United States) played in creating the modern and contemporary worlds over the last six centuries. Africana studies now has four core faculty members operating in different fields: religion, anthropology, literature, and history.
Tess Chakkalakal, the Peter M. Small Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English at Bowdoin College and chair of the new department, stated that “this move signals to the college that Africana studies is a discipline with a specific set of methods and conventions that can be learned through the major we’ve crafted. Africana studies has come a long way since its beginnings here at Bowdoin in 1969. Many of the program’s developments and challenges were discussed and celebrated during the AFAM 50 celebration weekend in November 2019 and this change in status is a direct result of those conversations. The move to department institutionalizes those developments.”