[ 9 ]
afrika focus — Volume 24, Nr. 2, 2011 — pp. 9-31
Building intellectual bridges:
from African studies and African
American studies to Africana studies
in the United States
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, California
The study of Africa and its peoples in the United States has a complex history. It has involved the
study of both an external and internal other, of social realities in Africa and the condition of people
of African descent in the United States. This paper traces and examines the complex intellectual,
institutional, and ideological histories and intersections of African studies and African American
studies. It argues that the two ﬁelds were founded by African American scholar activists as part
of a Pan-African project before their divergence in the historically white universities after World
War II in the maelstrom of decolonization in Africa and civil rights struggles in the United States.
However, from the late 1980s and 1990s, the two ﬁelds began to converge, a process captured in
the development of what has been called Africana studies. The factors behind this are attributed
to both demographic shifts in American society and the academy including increased African mi-
grations in general and of African academics in particular ﬂeeing structural adjustment programs
that devastated African universities, as well as the emergence of new scholarly paradigms espe-
cially the ﬁeld of diaspora studies. The paper concludes with an examination of the likely impact
of the Obama era on Africana studies.
Key words: African studies, African American studies, African diaspora studies, Africana studies
The development of studies related to African peoples in the United States, vari-
ously produced in ﬁelds known as African studies and African American studies, have
been molded and mediated, like other academic ﬁelds, by the unyielding demands and
unpredictable dynamics of history. The origins, construction, and legitimation of dis-
ciplines, the production, dissemination and consumption of scholarly knowledges are
conditioned by complex and sometimes contradictory, but always changing institutional,
intellectual and ideological processes and practices that occur and intersect at local, na-
tional, and transnational levels. This is simply to point out that the growth of studies of
African peoples has involved and their future will continue to entail interactive processes
afrika focus — Volume 24, Nr. 2[ 10 ]
p. tiyambe zeleza
between internal and external factors within and outside the universities, academic
and public constituencies, and national and global forces and transformations.
Studies of African peoples, phenomena and processes exhibit divergent organiza-
tional forms, academic tendencies, and social commitments. This can be explained by
the different intersections of the local institutional context, the wider academic context,
and the public context, or what the sociologist of professions, Andrew Abbott (1995),
calls arenas. Academic ﬁelds, much like the professions in general, have to establish
their boundaries of exclusive competence or special focus in order to legitimize, institu-
tionalize, and reproduce themselves. This requires and is essential to securing resources,
recognition, and respect from various constituencies that are so essential for survival.
Thus, in assessing the current challenges and opportunities facing the studies of Afri-
can peoples and their likely trajectories we need to better understand the historical and
prevailing intellectual, institutional, and ideological contexts in which the ﬁeld has de-
At the risk of oversimpliﬁcation one could argue African studies and African Ameri-
can studies, which when combined are commonly known as Africana studies in the Unit-
ed States, have had distinct and difﬁcult, if overlapping, histories. Clearly, Africana stud-
ies represents a complex, incomplete, even contested amalgam of different traditions in
the studies of African descended peoples within the United States, in Africa, and in other
The paper is divided into four parts. First, I will brieﬂy trace the divergent and in-
terwoven histories of African studies and African American studies before the Second
World War. Second, I will examine their reconstitution during the era of decolonization
in Africa and Civil Rights in the United States when the ﬁrst academic programs in the
two ﬁelds were established in U.S. universities. The third part focuses on the emergence
of the Africana studies movement in the 1980s and 1990s. I conclude with the rise of
diaspora studies, the current institutional architecture of studies related to African peo-
ples, and the likely impact of the Obama era on the ﬁeld. All along, I will try to identify
some of the key intellectual, institutional and ideological dynamics behind the changes
in the constructions of the braided histories of African, African American, Africana and
Let me stress at the outset that the developments I will be discussing are not pecu-
liar to Africana studies or the U.S., although they assume particular inﬂections for this
ﬁeld and in this country. The turns and twists, challenges and opportunities for Africana
studies reﬂect the periodic restructuring of higher education, as well as reconﬁgurations
of the social order, and the dynamics of political movements. Currently, we are witness-
ing changing patterns of global migrations, which are altering the demographic and di-
asporic formations in many countries including the United States. In this regard, it is
worth pointing out the profound shifts in the world political economy including the rise
of China and the other emerging economies, whose management, I suspect, will come to
deﬁne the Obama era when today’s polarized politics that undermines civil discourse and
serious attention to the country’s real challenges has been forgotten.
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Building intellectuel bridges
In this brave new world, I contend, the newer ﬁelds such as Africana studies, women
and gender studies, and environmental studies, to mention only a few, may embody the
future better than the older disciplines incubated in the 19th century, in so far as they
emerged out of epistemic and social struggles for interdisciplinary, intercultural, and in-
ternational knowledges beﬁtting the 21st century. Indeed, the former have played an im-
portant role in dismantling the hegemony of the older and often Eurocentric disciplines;
but they, too, will need reorganization. In short, Africana studies will only succeed in
escaping the stiﬂing tentacles of the Eurocentric disciplines and embracing the full pos-
sibilities of interdisciplinary and engaged scholarship if it overcomes what Carole Boyce
Davies (1999) calls the culturalist unicentricity and monologism of U.S. scholarship.
The Inception of African Studies and African American Studies
Ironically, African American scholar-activists in the Historically Black Colleges and
Universities (HBCUs) founded both African studies and African American studies be-
fore the two ﬁelds diverged into institutional and intellectual solitudes from the 1950s
to the 1990s. This is not the story often told in the histories of African studies beloved in
the Historically White Universities and Colleges (HWCUs) where African studies became
dominant from the end of the Second World War. In such narratives, the birth of the ﬁeld
is attributed to the Cold War and its paternity accorded to Melville Herskovits.1 This un-
derscores the simple fact that academic histories are revealing for what they say and leave
out, what they seek to remember and to forget. They serve as weapons in the perennial
struggles among academic disciplines for material resources and reputational capital;
they serve to mark boundaries, stake positions, and confer authority.
It is not surprising that the key architects of both ﬁelds at the turn of the 20th cen-
tury were African American scholar-activists. For European American scholars in the
burgeoning universities of Western Europe and North America, Africa and Africans were
not serious subjects of study.2 Rather they were objects of derision, or at best primitive af-
ﬁrmations of the eternal superiority of Euroamerica. African American scholar-activists
from Edward Blyden to Alexander Crummell and W.E.B. Dubois rejected such unapolo-
getic Eurocentrisism. The writings of Dubois are emblematic of the intersections be-
tween the two ﬁelds. In his scholarly and popular publications he sought to reconstruct
the histories and record the contemporary conditions of both African Americans and Af-
ricans, and offered searing indictments of racism in the United States and colonialism
Clearly, for the founders of the two ﬁelds, the fate of African peoples on both sides
of the Atlantic, indeed globally, were locked in suffocating webs of racial and colonial
oppression, from which Pan-African solidarity and struggle held the keys to liberation.
1 This is the story told in Jane Guyer’s (1996) monograph. For more nuanced histories of African studies that
underscore the role of HBCUs and African American scholar activists in the foundation of the ﬁeld, see Martin
and West (1999), Zeleza (2003), and Robinson (2007).
2 For an old history of African studies in Western Europe, see Fyfe (1976). For the most recent account of the his-
tory of African studies in Europe, Asia, and the Americas see Zeleza (2007).
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They understood that Africa and its Diasporas suffered from mutually reinforcing Euro-
pean economic, existential, and epistemic violence. In their writings and politics, they
sought to defend the integrity, experiences and contributions of Africans worldwide.
They produced what has been called vindicationist scholarship, vindicating the humanity
and historicity of African peoples, which was to mutate in subsequent generations into
various nationalist and radical paradigms in African and African American studies.
This phase in the intertwined history of African studies and African American stud-
ies lasted until the Second World War. The struggle over the control of African and Af-
rican American studies accelerated during the war as white scholars and institutions
discovered American Negroes and African natives as potentially worthy subjects of schol-
arship. This discursive expression of wartime mobilization was played out in many are-
nas. Among them was the American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee on Negro
Studies founded in 1941 (Harris 1982). Herskovits exercised tight control over the work of
the committee and deliberately sought to exclude the leading African American scholar-
activists of the time including Ralph Bunche and Dubois, although he was not averse to
using their services when he needed them. For him, scholarship had to be detached, so
he loathed openly ﬁghting racial segregation in the United States. This became increas-
ingly untenable as the civil rights movement gathered momentum in the postwar era. At
that point, Herskovits fully shifted his research interests to Africa. In 1948, he founded
the Program of African Studies at Northwestern. Two years later, the ACLS Committee on
Negro Studies collapsed.
Thus began the institutional, intellectual, and ideological split between African
studies and African American studies. The study of Africa moved from the HBCUs to the
HWCUs, from Howard to Northwestern, while intellectual authority shifted from activist
scholars to professional academics, from Dubois to Herskovits. Studies of the African
American experience focused on the history of the slave trade, often prefaced by broad
outlines of the societies the enslaved Africans were taken from, the barbaric history of
slavery, the struggles for abolition and the limits of emancipation, which was followed
by a century of Jim Crow segregation. These scholars painstakingly unraveled the struc-
tural and social conditions of African American communities at the same time as they
recorded the enormous contributions of African Americans to the development of the
United States in all its economic, cultural, and political dimensions. Several of Dubois’
books are emblematic of these broad thematic concerns3.
Among the topics that preoccupied many of the younger African American scholar
activists, the growth of black urban communities and social classes featured high, most
memorably in the works by Franklin Frazier4 and St. Clair Drake and Cayton (
1993). These scholars also examined, even celebrated, the development of African Amer-
ican culture including the expressive arts from music to literature. They vigorously de-
bated the relative inﬂuence of African cultural survivals and American inventions in the
3 They include The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America (1896), The Philadelphia Negro
( 1998), and Black Reconstruction in America ( 1998).
4 Among Frazier’s landmark studies are The Negro Family in the United States (1939) and Black Bourgeoisie (1957).
afrika focus — 2011-12 [ 13 ]
Building intellectuel bridges
growth of African American culture and identity. Thus, in this formative period, African
American studies combined and often sought to counterbalance narratives of American
racism with those of African American agency, struggle and achievement. These analyti-
cal preoccupations remained after the Second World War as the ﬁeld became institution-
alized. In contrast, white scholars who ventured into African American studies largely
focused on the ‘Negro problem’.
In the meantime, in African studies the epistemic canvas swung from African civi-
lization to African modernization as Africa turned into a ‘development problem’. Rein-
forcing this growing separation between African American studies and African studies
was the national security imperative, the construction of area studies to bolster U.S, glo-
bal power in its superpower rivalry with the Soviet Union. Locked in Cold War combat,
which frequently turned into hot proxy wars in the newly invented Third World, win-
ning hearts and minds as well as producing hegemonic knowledges of Africa, Asia, and
Latin America became imperative. The area studies movement, in which African studies
was now lodged, was centered in the HWUCs and bankrolled by the Federal government
through its Title VI programs and the major foundations including Ford and Rockefeller
that provided funding for area studies training and research5.
For the next few decades, African studies was infused with the twists and turns
of American foreign policy, the projection of imperial power, in which knowledges of
Euroamerica were universalized into disciplinary parables of the human condition and
knowledges of Third World regions including Africa became particularized and even pe-
culiar narratives of lack and becoming, lacking and becoming Europe. In this, African
studies could not escape from the racialized paradigms, perspectives and practices of
dominant American scholarship. The denigration of Africa and devaluation of Africans
reﬂected and reproduced the epistemic racism that contaminated the work on minorities
including African Americans.
Indeed, the exclusion of these populations from political and textual citizenship,
from the American mainstream, necessitated the separation of their ancestral cultures
and continents from disciplinary narratives. In short, given the centrality of race in Amer-
ican society and politics, the eternal solitudes between blacks and whites rooted in slav-
ery and segregation, it meant that the privileges and pathologies of the wider American
social and intellectual order were reﬂected and reproduced with a ferocious investment
of patronage, passions, and pain in African studies in a manner that was unusual even
among the area studies programs. More often than not, deﬁnitions and defamations of
Africa were projections of attitudes to African Americans. The vocabulary used to depict
the otherness and failed promises of Africa were often the same as that used for African
Americans. This congruence of constructions and condemnations lay at the heart of the
periodic contestations, often bitter, between African Americans, European Americans,
and increasingly Africans in the study of Africa.
The inferiorization of Africa infected the area studies practitioners themselves as
5 For informative studies of area studies, see Hawkins et al. (1998), Miyoshi and Harootunia (2002), and Szanton
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they came to be regarded by their colleagues in the American academy as parochial and
less rigorous, intellectual deﬁciency syndromes they apparently hid behind interdisci-
plinary affectations. Anxious European American Africanists suffering from imagined
complexes of African studies methodological and theoretical backwardness periodically
abandoned the ﬁeld and rediscovered the glories of U.S.-centric disciplines and debates,
migrated to less maligned regions, or became regional comparativists and globalists6.
Others sought to distance themselves further from African American studies, hoping
to immunize themselves from the highly charged racial discourses evident in the ﬁeld.
Often forgotten in these academic hierarchies and maneuvers was the simple fact that
disciplinary specialists focusing on the United States could function successfully with-
out knowing anything about non-western societies; what was almost unheard of was an
Africanist who only knew the society she studied or came from. In so far as intellectual
rigor often comes from the demanding intersections of breadth and depth, it is far more
exacting to be an area studies specialist than an ethnocentric disciplinary expert.
The professionalized and developmentalist thrust of African studies from the 1950s
reﬂected various trends in public policy and the academy. In the policy world, there was
the territorialization of poverty as a Third World problem and the institutionalization of
development practice (Escobar 1994). For its part, the commoditization and corporati-
zation of academic culture forced and facilitated the divorce of academics from social
movements, civic engagement, and public intellectualism (Jacoby 1987). Intellectual life
became increasingly professionalized thanks to the explosive postwar expansion of uni-
versity education and the growth of middle class comforts, consciousness, and conserva-
tism, all of which spawned a social science research culture that valorized objectivity,
detachment, and a mindless chase for theory. This expedited the separation of African
studies from domestic African American constituencies and reinforced the use of de-
ductive methods and models, in which Africa was reduced to a testing site for theories
manufactured with faddish regularity in the American academy.
The Era of Decolonization in Africa and Civil Rights in the United States
The separation between African studies and African American studies entered a
particularly complicated period from the 1960s following African independence and the
explosion in higher education on the continent and the nationalist project to decolonize
education and culture7. In the meantime, the United States was convulsed by civil rights
struggles, which inspired other movements including the anti-war and feminist move-
ments. All these movements challenged hierarchies and hegemonies of power in Ameri-
can society and institutions including the universities8.
6 For a loud defense of the disciplinary relevance of African studies see Bates, et al. (1993)
7 These developments are explored brieﬂy by Zeleza (2009) and at greater length in Zeleza and Olukoshi (2004a,
8 The contexts and causalities between civil rights and the emergence of Black/African American studies are ex-
plored at length by Banks (1996), Aldridge and Young (2000), Gordon and Gordon (2006), and Rojas (2007).
Also invaluable are the anthologies on Black studies (Bobo, Hudley, and Michel 2004) and Africana studies
Barrett and Carey 2003; Azevedo 1998).
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There were intense reverberations between decolonization in Africa and civil rights
in the U.S., which had epistemological and institutional consequences. Both independ-
ence and decolonization brought more African and African American students and fac-
ulty to predominantly white American universities. Independence brought more Africans
to the U.S. seeking education to develop their postcolonial nations, while the civil rights
movements opened doors to African Americans to white-dominated institutions and for
migrants from Third World regions. The racism they encountered on these campuses and
the exclusion of their societies, cultures and histories from the curriculum and disciplinary
canons inﬂamed their nationalist passions and rekindled their Pan-African imaginations.
Militant African American students who waged vocal protests for curricular relevancy, re-
form of higher education, social justice, community engagement, and inclusive democracy
of course took the lead. Other minority students and liberal white students often supported
them, especially in the early days.
The African American studies movement was both an ally and a foe of African studies.
Many a reluctant university administration was forced to develop African studies programs
in direct response to the institutional, intellectual, and ideological challenges posed by
militant African American students, who were inspired by the Black consciousness, Black
arts, and Civil Rights movements more generally, whose demands for courses on the Black
experience soon turned into calls for Black studies departments, centers, institutes, or pro-
grams that should both be independent and involved in community service.
By challenging Eurocentric paradigms and the rigid barriers between academic disci-
plines, the African American studies movement helped legitimize the study of non-Western
cultures and multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies. In short, as Manning Mara-
ble (1995) has reminded us, the African American studies movement was an integral part
of the multiculturalism struggle that facilitated the entry of African studies programs and
other minority and women studies programs into the academy. But by pointing to the con-
ﬁguration of European American power and domination in the American academy, even
in African studies, and emphasizing the collective black experience, it challenged African
studies in which the study of Africa and the African America and the African diaspora more
generally were strictly separated.
The Struggle for Black Studies
In 1968 and 1969, two pivotal events took place that poignantly captured the dawn of
the new era in African American studies and African studies. The ﬁrst was the student pro-
test in 1968 at San Francisco State University, which resulted in the established of the ﬁrst
Black Studies program in the country. Within three years, more than ﬁve hundred programs
had been established. Both African American studies and African studies found themselves
competing for resources and recognition at the HWCUs. By and large, the HBCUs hardly
developed programs, as distinct from individual course offerings, in either ﬁeld (Challenor
2002; Mann 2010).
The proponents of radical Black studies or what later came to be known as African Ameri-
can studies were soon stymied. The ﬁeld was compromised by the integrationist impulses of
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white philanthropists, principally the Ford Foundation, who bankrolled the new programs and
helped assuage the fears of white administrators thus paving way for the institutionalization
of Black studies. This story has been told in fascinating detail by Noliwe Rooks (2006) in her
book, White Money, Black Power. The Ford Foundation supported the establishment of African
American studies primarily to promote racial integration and institutional diversity, that is, the
diversiﬁcation of students, faculty, and curricular.
This rhetoric appealed both to university administrators, many of whom introduced Black
studies programs without student protests on their own campuses, and many Civil Rights
icons that disapproved of the separatist ideology of Black Power, and older Black faculty who
were not convinced of the intellectual merits of Black Studies. Between 1968 and 1972, the Ford
Foundation made grants worth $10 million to two-dozen Black Studies programs. Funding
was restricted to those that sought to promote the Foundation’s vision and set themselves up
as ‘a clearinghouse through which Black faculty, Black texts, and Black students could be fun-
neled to traditionally white disciplines such as history, English, and sociology’ (Rooks 2006:
The Institutionalization of African Studies
Also increasingly frustrated were the dreams of creating decolonized African studies, let
alone Africana studies that encompassed both sides of the Atlantic. African studies suffered
from the imperialist injunctions of the area studies model sanctioned by the state. In 1969, a
confrontation took place at the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association in Montreal,
where a group of African and African American scholars and activists challenged the Eurocen-
trisism of African studies and the control of African studies by white scholars. They called for
more Black members and leadership, as well as the inclusion of Pan-Africanist perspectives,
and political commitment to struggles for emancipation in Africa and in the U. S. from what
they termed imperialist and racist oppression, exploitation, and marginalization.
The role of the U.S. Department of Education Title VI program in shaping area studies in
the American academy is well known (Hawkins et al. 1998; O’meara, et al. 2001; O’Connell and
Norwood 2007; Wiley and Glew 2010). First passed under the National Defense Education Act
of 1958, the program clearly sought to bind the study of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the So-
viet bloc to national security needs. Over the next three decades in subsequent reauthorizations
to fund National Resource Centers and Foreign Language and Areas Studies fellowships, both
the appropriations and mandates of Title VI expanded to include the promotion of American
business competitiveness and other pressing national interests. As the Cold War wound down
following détente and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Title VI funding declined despite the
growth of area studies programs. Adjusted for inﬂation, it fell by 17 percent from $64.2 million
in 1967 to $53.3 million in 1995, while funding for Fulbright-Hays programs fell by 56 percent
from $13.8 to $5.8 during the same period. Following 9/11, the national security imperative
returned with a vengeance and area studies funding skyrocketed.
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Building intellectuel bridges
The Solitudes of African American and African Studies
By the 1970s, then, there were various competing paradigms and projects in Af-
rican studies and African American studies. The funding formulas and ideological
proclivities of the state and foundations reinforced the divisions. The Title VI program
only awarded grants to ‘foreign’ area studies programs that were administratively and
academically separate from ‘domestic’ ethnic studies programs. This not only sus-
tained the separation between the two ﬁelds, it also presented an important structural
barrier to the departmentalization of area studies. In cases where combined depart-
ments of African and African American studies were set up, independent African stud-
ies’ centers were created to access Title VI funds. In the meantime, higher education
funding for African Americans from the philanthropic organization including the
Ford Foundation was almost exclusively conﬁned to those pursuing Black Studies. In
this way, the institutional divide became loudly racial: African studies programs were
dominated by European Americans while African American studies programs became
a preserve of African Americans.
The Emergence of Africana Studies in the U.S. Academy
By the early 1980s, about 600 institutions of higher education had established
programs in Black studies, African American studies, Afro-American studies, or Af-
ricana studies. The proliferation of the nomenclature was itself an indication of the
internal theoretical and methodological divisions in the ﬁeld. According to various
estimates, the number dropped to between 200 and 400 in the early 1990s, thanks
to internal dissensions, overwork, dwindling administrative support, partly because
of the growing backlash against afﬁrmative action, and growing competition for re-
sources by other ethnic studies and thematic studies programs. Programs and faculty
in African American studies were generally held in low esteem, as intellectually weak,
an indictment they still suffer from. At best, they were valued for helping to advance
the token diversiﬁcation of Black faculty and curricula on campuses; at worst, they
were tolerated as cheap concessions to afﬁrmative action and political correctness.
The struggle for institutional stability and respectability took various forms as
evident with the African American Studies programs at Temple and Harvard universi-
ties. The trajectory of the two programs also captures, quite starkly, the increasingly
divergent institutional, intellectual, and ideological paths within African American
Studies. In a fascinating comparative study, Mario Small (1999) notes that both pro-
grams, which had attained departmental status, were in the doldrums before the ap-
pointment of two remarkable chairs, Moleﬁ Asante at Temple and Henry Louis Gates
at Harvard in the mid-1980s and in the early 1990s, respectively. Asante turned the
ﬁeld into an autonomous discipline, Africology, focused on Afrocentric agency and
epistemology, and committed to engaged scholarship9. In contrast, Gates maintained
African American Studies as an interdisciplinary ﬁeld, open to multiple disciplinary
9 There is now a sizeable literature on Africology/Afrocentricity both laudatory and critical, see Asante (1988,
2006), Howe (1998), Davies (1999), Mazana (2003), Conyers (2005), Bankole (2006), and Adeleke (2009).
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methodologies, and unapologetically committed to scholarship and secondarily poli-
The differences between the two programs reﬂected the different intellectual ambi-
tions and ideological inclinations of the two men. But beyond personal inclinations and
quirks, the different strategies they adopted to gain organizational stability and legitimacy
reﬂected their respective institutional contexts, and academic and public constituencies.
Temple had a much larger African American student body than Harvard. Moreover, Small
argues, the Black community in Philadelphia was bigger, more important for Temple and
more supportive of African American Studies at the university than was the case for Harvard
in Cambridge. This explains the efforts by Asante’s department to synergize activism and
scholarship, compared to the more exclusive academic ﬁxations of Gates’ department.
In the wider academic arena, Asante appealed to a growing network of scholars who
were committed to the development of the ﬁeld as a distinctive discipline, vehemently op-
posed to Eurocentric perspectives, attracted to multiple epistemic voices, and enamored by
Black Nationalism. His department established a number of journals that helped expand
a distinctive space for Afrocentric knowledge production, circulation, and consumption.
For his part, Gates focused his considerable entrepreneurial energies on building a ‘dream
team’ of scholars who were already highly accomplished in their disciplines, and who
enjoyed respect among the networks of prominent intellectuals. For such scholars joint
appointments made sense and they were readily welcomed in their respective disciplinary
departments that could simultaneously burnish their academic and diversity credentials.
Instead of establishing a series of independent journals, prominence was given to data-col-
lecting projects for analytical use by the existing disciplines. While rejecting social activism,
Gates and his colleagues happily embraced the celebrity version of public intellectualism.
In the meantime, African studies programs were also undergoing their own shifts and
contestations. The growing migrations of Africans to the United States, thanks to the dep-
redations of structural adjustment programs and postcolonial authoritarianisms, which
devastated African universities, brought a new mix in the perennial racial, intellectual, and
ideological schisms of African studies. Their entry into U.S. universities offered African
studies both an opportunity and a challenge. As migrants from predominantly Black so-
cieties, African migrant intellectuals were not always sensitive to the racial dynamics and
demands of American society and the academy; some even internalized the dominant’s
society’s negative stereotypes of African Americans, which often made them accomplices
with European Americans in America’s eternal racial war, for which they were sometimes
rewarded with preferential hiring and promotion over African Americans11. By hiring a few
10 For the ups and downs of Gates’s department, see The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (2004) and for
commentaries on Gates’ Africanist work, see and Mbabuike (2000) and Zeleza (2003).
11 The question of Black faculty marginalization at predominantly white institutions continues to be a hotly debated
issue. When I was invited to present an original version of this paper at Texas A&M, I was asked to do a workshop
for Black faculty on the challenges minority faculty especially face in their career and epistemic negotiations in
their disciplines and departments. I sent the workshop participants in advance the following reading materials:
a special issue of the Journal of Black Studies (2003); Tillman (2001); Thomas and Hollenshead (2001); Stanley
(2006, 2007); and Mathew and Grunwald (2006). It was vigorous, if at times, painful conversation.
afrika focus — 2011-12 [ 19 ]
Building intellectuel bridges
continental Africans, African studies programs gained credibility and universities shored
up their afﬁrmative action credentials.
The Africans, however, were not always so easily placated; their blackness assumed
greater salience the longer they stayed in the U.S. especially as they and their families
were forced to negotiate the country’s treacherous racial quagmire and their children be-
came African Americans or American Africans, as Ali Mazrui (1996) calls them. The grav-
itation towards African American grievances reinforced the Africans’ own long-standing
grumblings against the marginality of African voices in African studies. Hence, as have
extensively documented elsewhere12, the growing trail of complaints by African scholars
about the relevance and reliability, accountability and authority, biases and boundaries,
concepts and constructions, deﬁnitions and distortions, integrity and imperatives, ideo-
logical attachments and intellectual agendas of the white dominated African studies en-
Thus, by the 1990s the divide between African studies and African American stud-
ies and within each ﬁeld was institutional, intellectual, and ideological. Housed in
separate, sometimes antagonistic units that often ignored each other; they examined
the U.S. and Africa from distinctly different angles. The Africa of African studies was
the sub-Saharan contraption examined through the gaze of modernization and devel-
opment; the Africa of Afrocentric studies was continental and diasporic, focusing on
the ancient past and transnational connections among African peoples. Similarly, Afri-
can studies ignored African America, while many African American Studies programs
ignored Africa. The gulf between development and diaspora, Africa and the diaspora,
became deep and unproductive. The institutional divide was also racialized as white
scholars dominated African studies programs and African American studies became
largely conﬁned to black scholars. African scholars often found themselves straddling
between the two solitudes.
But this institutional architecture and intellectual division of labor was already
creaking at the seams. Increasingly, joint programs of African and African American
Studies started emerging on many campuses. Some were new, while others resulted
from consolidation or expansion of previously separate programs. Formal mergers
were difﬁcult at universities hosting large Title VI funded African studies programs,
although collaborations between these programs and African American studies pro-
grams began to increase if only to assuage growing student demands. But tensions
often lurked behind the surface in the newly minted Africana studies programs. There
were often four sets of tensions, which manifested themselves principally over faculty
searches, course scheduling, and extra-curricular programming. The ﬁrst was between
African Americans and Africans; the second between men and women; the third be-
tween social scientists and humanists; and the fourth between those who prized schol-
arship and those who valorized activism13. It was a perfect site for crabs-in-a-bowl
12 See the studies quoted in note 1 above.
13 Christel Temple (2006) discusses the humanities vs. social science tensions in Black studies.
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syndrome. It was not unusual for some black scholars not afﬁliated with the Africana
studies departments to avoid their potentially toxic atmosphere and low reputation.
Nevertheless, the trend towards Africana studies was unmistakable. It was strength-
ened by the growing popularity of the diaspora paradigm, which led to the internation-
alization of African American studies beyond the U.S. to incorporate other African di-
asporas in he Americas and the trans-Atlanticization of African studies, the reconnection
of studies of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. This development can be
accounted for by several factors. The ﬁrst factor is demographic, the migration of un-
precedented numbers of African academics to American universities14. This is tied to the
overall increased migrations from Africa and other regions with large African diaspora
populations such as the Caribbean and South America. The offspring of these migrants,
or the new diaspora, are increasingly going to universities. Their cultural worlds, and
intellectual quests, straddle Africa and the United States, interest in African studies and
African American studies. To be sure, the majority of Black students whether from the
historic or new diasporas do not major or even minor in these ﬁelds. But the point I want
to make is that the combined growth of faculty and students from recent African migrant
populations is shifting the terrain of Black identity on American campuses and the con-
ﬁguration of Black Studies.
This has become a source of censure, celebration, and concern among the advo-
cates and antagonists of separate programs of African and African American Studies.
For those who are opposed to the emergence of Africana studies from the African Ameri-
can side, their anxieties are partly fueled by apprehensions about afﬁrmative action, the
changing demographic proﬁle of the United States including the apparent dissolution
of blackness into hyphenated national and multiracial identities. This trepidation is ex-
pressed with considerable rage by Cecil Brown (2007) in his book Dude, Where’s My Black
Studies Department? in which he laments the disappearance of African American students
and faculty from the University of California campuses and the takeover of Black Studies
departments by racially timid and pliant overseers from the Caribbean and Africa who
take refuge in diaspora studies. Such anguish has found its way to the mainstream me-
dia including the New York Times, which had an attention grabbing front page story a few
years ago by Rimer and Arenson (2004): “Top Colleges Take More Blacks, But Which
Ones?” The story, and others like it, noted the rapid increase in the numbers of ﬁrst and
second-generation students of African and Caribbean descent in elite colleges among
This development is also quite disconcerting to those Africanists who relished un-
challenged racial authority over the study of Africa; they prefer their beloved and distant
Africa safely sealed from American academic racial politics. This is evident in two in-
ﬂuential studies published as the Africana studies movement was emerging, in which
14 The literature on African migrations to the United States and development of the new diaspora is growing rap-
idly. See some of the following, (Arthur 2000, 2009, 2010; Zeleza 2004, 2005, 2008; Okpewho and Nzegwu
15 See a similar story in The San Francisco Gazette (Johnson 2005), and the reports by Eissa (2005) and Bennett
and Lutz (2009).
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Building intellectuel bridges
African studies is strictly conﬁned to the study of continental Africa and separated from
the study of the pan-African world (Bates et al. 1993; Guyer 1996). Africana studies recon-
nects Africa to the United States and brings African Americans back to African studies
from where they were largely banished with the ascendancy of developmentalist scholar-
ship in African studies and the establishment of African American Studies programs.
Many Africanists see Africana studies as a racialized black space that threatens their frag-
ile academic respectability derived from the fact that the interdisciplinarity of their Afri-
can studies remained largely administrative not disciplinary. For many of them, Africana
studies smacks of Afrocentricity, which they tend to disparage.
The Rise of Diaspora Studies
Increased migrations and formations of new African diasporas in the United States
would not, by themselves, have led to the development of diaspora studies, which ce-
mented Africana studies as the global study of African peoples. This development was
tied in complex ways to other developments within and outside the academy. The in-
tellectual dynamics included the rise of cultural studies, postcolonial studies, and glo-
balization studies, which collectively recast the questions of culture, identity, and tran-
snationalism in many humanities and social science ﬁelds including African studies and
African American studies16.
Previously African studies had been dominated by developmentalist and structural-
ist perspectives, often superimposed on age-old Eurocentric notions of eternal African
marginality, the strange ﬁction that the continent was irredeemably irrelevant and splen-
didly isolated from the rest of the world. Part of the appeal of the diaspora paradigm is
that it promised to reconnect Africa to its peoples dispersed around the world and glo-
balized Africa, repositioned the continent in world history.
Accompanying these intellectual imperatives were institutional dynamics, the es-
tablishment of centers, institutes, or programs of global, transnational, or cultural stud-
ies in which diaspora studies became the favored progeny. Alongside this was the emer-
gence of journals, book series, and research funding on the subject. As with any ﬁeld of
scholarship, once you build the institutional architecture research and publications tend
to follow, discourses and debates are manufactured, careers made and unmade. Since
2006, as I conducted my project on the global history of African diasporas that took me
to sixteen countries (four each in continental South and North America, the Caribbean,
Europe and Asia), I have watched the literature on African diasporas literally explode as
scores of books and hundreds of articles are published each year. Trying to keep up with
the literature has become increasingly impossible for any one individual.
The intellectual and institutional dynamics promoting diaspora studies have been
facilitated and reinforced by ideological imperatives, the investment by states and vari-
ous publics in diaspora communities, the popular discourses by and on diaspora popu-
lations, perspectives, problems, and possibilities. The discovery by African states and
16 For succinct analysis on the growth and challenges of African diaspora studies, see Zeleza (2010); for more
detailed studies see Okpewho and Nzegwu (2009) and Olaniyan and Sweet (2010).
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p. tiyambe zeleza
development agencies of the new African diasporas as a developmental asset, as the con-
tinent's major donor – responsible for between $50 and $150 billion in remittance ﬂows
according to various estimates– is complimented by a growing consciousness on the part
of the diasporas themselves and their capacity to act as powerful transnational forces.
This is best encapsulated in the designation of the diaspora by the African Union as
Africa’s sixth region although the implications of this are yet to be fully spelled out. In
the meantime, many diaspora communities themselves have become more vocal in their
self-representation, in their demands for difference and inclusion. On the one hand, this
reﬂects the glocalization of pan-ethnic identities and racial formations, both old and
new, and on the other the growth of bureaucratic multiculturalism. The role of interna-
tional forums cannot be discounted. In this context, one can mention the mobilizational
effects of the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism for African diasporas from Bra-
zil to India.
The ﬂow of intellectual and ideological currents from and into the United States,
which shook the barricades of institutional separatism between African Studies and Afri-
can American Studies, was made possible by the very technologies and economies of glo-
balization. The academy, in short, could not remain splendidly isolated from the growing
intensity of global interconnectedness and competitiveness. The enhanced ﬂows of capi-
tal and commodities extended to culture; the globalization of information and images
included ideas; the transnationalization of people and politics encompassed paradigms
This is to argue the development of Africana studies was part of a much broader
movement. As I have written at length elsewhere, internationalization constitutes one
of the key challenges and opportunities facing universities. It is driven internally by the
growing complexity of knowledge and externally by the increasing commercialization
of knowledge. It is quite evident that universities are becoming more interconnected
internationally for both epistemic and economic reasons, the ﬁrst because universities
have always been, or aspire to be, universalist and universalizing institutions, an impera-
tive reinforced by growing global reﬂexivity and the explosion of knowledge that makes
transnational collaborations more important than ever; and the second because trade in
educational services is expanding rapidly and even becoming subject to global trade rules
In a sense, the new intellectual moment in Africana studies rekindled by diaspora
studies represents a road back to the future, to the African, diasporic, and global concerns
and commitments of Du Bois, Dike, Diop, and Davidson, away from the prescriptive de-
velopmentralisms that dominated African studies and the domestic preoccupations that
characterized African American studies in the late 1960s and 1970s. It marked a potential
movement from the reformist and nationalist politics of conformity and careerism to the
politics of Pan-African enlightenment, empowerment, engagement, and emancipation,
of radically imagining a different future (Christian 2004; Gomez 2004; Grifﬁn 2004;
Hanchard 2004). Du Bois, as Reiland Rabaka (2006: 745) reminds us, was an insurgent,
interdisciplinary intellectual, who addressed the challenges and crises of his times, espe-
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Building intellectuel bridges
cially the political economies of racism, imperialism and liberation using critical social
theory constructed out of transcultural, transnational, trans-ethnic, trans-gender, and
trans-disciplinary approaches inspired by his enduring opposition to the interlocking
systems of oppression and dedication to “human liberation, democratic political ac-
tion, and social transformation.”
Clearly, the emergence of new African diasporas and disapora studies challenges
the conceptual registers of both African studies and African American studies and bring
the two ﬁelds closer together. As Africa realizes it cannot ignore its new diasporas, in
the diaspora communities and identities are being reconﬁgured as they become more
pluralized. All this forces us to move beyond conventional African and U.S. categories
of identity. As Beverly Guy-Sheftall (1998: 20) puts it with reference to the gendering
of the ﬁeld of women and African diaspora studies: “Racial categories familiar with-
in this country are somewhat useless in a consideration of what we would call racial/
ethnic women outside it.” A fully transnational and transcultural paradigm of African
diaspora studies, argues Davies (1999: 106), has to “speak to the variety of movements
ushered in by migrations and the consistent reproduction of different modes of being
in the world. Rather than a giant, monolithic, traditional African culture, then, we can
assert multiple, transcultural presences within and outside Africa.”
The Institutional Architecture of African, African American, Africana and
As a result of all these developments, Africana studies exhibits considerable diver-
sity in the U.S. academy, which can be distinguished in terms of their institutional or-
ganization, location, and activities. In the ﬁrst instance, some are organized as centers
and others as departments. As for location, some are placed in colleges of liberal arts and
sciences (or arts and letters), and others in schools of international studies or affairs.
In terms of activities, the main difference is that some offer full degrees and others
minors, concentrations, or certiﬁcates. A brief survey of shows institutions that have
a history of receiving Title VI funding tend to have separate African studies centers
and African American studies programs or departments. This is true at the ﬂagship
campuses of the universities of California, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Kansas, Michi-
gan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio, Rutgers, and Wisconsin, as well at such
leading private universities as Boston, Cornell, Harvard, Northwestern, Pennsylvania,
Princeton, and Yale.
At some of these universities departments of African and African American or Afri-
cana studies have also been established alongside African studies programs. This is the
case, for example, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Harvard, Rutgers,
University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania. In universities where separate
African studies and African studies were not established before the rise of the Africana
studies movement, stand-alone Africana studies departments have been created. This
tends to be the case at the smaller or poorer universities among the lower-tier public
and private universities and the HBCUs. There are notable exceptions such as Bard
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p. tiyambe zeleza
College, Brown University, Binghamton University, University of South Florida, and
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where neither history nor resources are the decisive
In a few cases, African studies centers not only exist alongside African American
studies programs, but also with departments of African languages and literatures as is
the case at the universities of Florida and Wisconsin. At several universities programs
or departments of African and African diaspora studies have been created. Examples in-
clude Calvin College, Florida International University, Kennesaw State University, Tulane
University and the University of Maryland. It is reasonable to expect that as the ﬁnancial
situation of many universities continues to deteriorate either because of declining public
subventions or pressures on tuition rises and growth of endowments due to the Great
Recession and its lingering effects, smaller academic programs are being eliminated or
compelled to consolidate. Consolidation will help the growth of Africana studies pro-
grams and departments at the expense of separate African and African American studies
Among the current 12 Title VI centers eight are located in colleges of arts and sciences
(Boston, Harvard, Indiana, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Pennsylvania,
Wisconsin), and four in schools of international studies (Michigan State, Ohio, Berke-
ley, and Yale). A similar pattern is evident for many of the institutions without Title VI
African studies programs. The case of Michigan State is quite intriguing in that while
African studies is in international studies, the department of African and African Ameri-
can studies is in the college of arts and letters. This is not the space to assess the merits
or demerits of the different models of institutional location, except to note that it reﬂects
the predominance of social science and humanities disciplines in area studies programs.
This can limit the campus-wide appeal of area studies programs especially for faculty
and students in professional colleges, which can undermine some of the very Title VI or
international mandates of these programs. But placing area studies in international stud-
ies can reinforce their separation from domestic ethnic studies. At several universities
deliberate efforts are being made to link African studies to professional schools as can be
seen at the University of Michigan.
These programs typically undertake a similar range of teaching, research, and out-
reach activities despite the obvious differences of magnitude and effectiveness, which are
partly determined by history, resources, and geographical location. At the undergradu-
ate level, the African American studies or Africana studies programs typically offer ma-
jors, while most Title VI programs offer minors, concentrations or certiﬁcate, except for
Michigan State, Ohio, UNC, and Yale, which offer a major. The same is true at the gradu-
ate level. For the stand-alone African studies programs Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Yale
offer an MA in African studies as well as in the case of Indiana and Yale joint MA degrees
usually with professional ﬁelds. At the PhD level most only offer concentrations, minors,
and certiﬁcates are offered, although PhDs focusing on Africa are routinely earned in
various departments. Harvard and Brown have Ph.D. tracks in African studies in their
African American studies and Africana studies departments, respectively.
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Building intellectuel bridges
In addition, African, African American, and Africana studies programs provide op-
portunities for scholars and students in each of these ﬁelds to engage each other through
seminars, public lectures, colloquia, workshops, conferences, and publications. Out-
reach within and outside campus is also common; the latter include communities rang-
ing from schools and colleges to business, the media, and government, and involve the
organization of summer or specialized institutes, exhibitions, and ﬁlm series. Study
abroad programs are also popular; they include those organized by the centers them-
selves, their universities, or by various consortia or independent providers.
The Implications of the Obama Moment
Let me conclude with a few thoughts on how the Obama era might affect the develop-
ment of Africana studies. The rise of a member of the new African diaspora to the presi-
dency of the United States recasts relationships between the new and historic diasporas
in the U.S. and recasts the connections between Africa and its diasporas. It has encour-
aged the new diaspora to become more engaged in American politics in general and
reinforced African American interest in Africa as the immediate homeland of President
Obama’s father. In short, the Obama presidency has buttressed the need to study devel-
opments on both sides of the Atlantic, indeed across the world, to better understand the
pluralized African populations in the U.S., across the diaspora, and in Africa itself.
I am only too aware that it is too soon to pass deﬁnitive judgments on this unfold-
ing era. Indeed a lot of the prognostications that we hear, especially the loud and often
mindless punditry on cable, are premature because the Obama era is just two years old.
Like most historical eras, it arose out of complex and contradictory national and global
histories, and its trajectory will be no less complex and contradictory, even messy and
bewildering. However, there is little doubt that the triumphant memories of President
Obama’s election and inauguration, which electriﬁed the American, global, and Pan-
African imaginations have almost faded under the harsh demands of governance, in the
face of Washington’s descent into furious incivility and political gridlock verging on un-
The euphoria that temporarily lifted the country from the abyss of collective de-
spondency has dissipated as the Great Recession continues to devastate lives and liveli-
hoods, mock the fantasies of indebted consumption of the American dream; as levels of
unemployment and underemployment remain stubbornly high. Fanciful dreams for a
postracial future withered against the dreadful realities of what appears as a racist back-
lash against the country’s ﬁrst African American president.
The increasingly embattled Obama Administration ﬁnds itself buffeted between
the angry Tea Party rabble of the right and the impatient progressives of the left. In the
meantime, many African American leaders and voters are questioning the president’s
commitment to a “black agenda” more openly. They are disenchanted because they have
been battered disproportionately by the ravages of the recession. In the 2010 Midterm
elections, the Democrats were abandoned by many independent and white voters who
only two years before had given them an overwhelming majority and lost power in Con-
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gress, and in Washington D.C. the much trumpeted post-racial mayor, Adrian Fenty, was
defeated by disenchanted Black voters.
Elsewhere in the world, the giddy promises of the Obama era have largely lost their
glow as the reﬂexes of American imperial power have reasserted themselves amidst the
recycled rhetoric of multilateralism. And in the Pan-African world, from the continent
itself to Afro-Latin America to Afro-Europe and Afro-Asia, the great expectations for a
new dispensation for African peoples remain suspended in fading hope and growing un-
certainty. The romance with Obama, which began to lose its seductions in Cairo, frayed
in Accra, and ﬁzzled in Copenhagen.
These rising discontents say more about the desperate desires pinned on an Obama
presidency than the actual performance of his administration, which has passed some
historic legislation including major reforms in health care, banking and ﬁnance, educa-
tion and research, and energy. In the lame duck congressional session of December 2010,
the Administration scored remarkable legislative victories including extending tax cuts
and unemployment beneﬁts, repealing the ban on gays serving in the military, ratifﬁng
the new START treaty with Russia, and passing the most important food safety bill in
decades, all of which helped nudge the President’s poll numbers upwards.
The widespread sense of unease, even despair especially in progressive circles, re-
ﬂects the unfulﬁlled great expectations during the presidential election for a new era of
meaningful change after the disastrous years of the Bush Administration and the destruc-
tive legacies of neo-liberal fundamentalism that imploded in the Great Recession. Presi-
dent Obama has never presented himself as a ﬁery radical, let alone can he be considered
a socialist by anyone who knows socialism, committed to profound social transforma-
tion. In the spectrum of American politics, he is a liberal centrist. In Pan-African politics,
he would be regarded as a progressive conservative.
It is remarkable how soon many people seem to want to forget President Obama’s
horrible inheritance. As noted in an essay written on the day of President Obama’s inau-
guration in Zeleza’s (2009: 215) book, Barack Obama and African Diasporas, “the extraordi-
nary euphoria that has gripped this nation and parts of the world is obviously unsustain-
able, and it will inevitably evaporate in the predictable whirlwind of stumbles, setbacks,
even scandals, not to mention the structural obstacles, the systemic imperatives of this
mighty but beleaguered capitalist country and imperial power that will constrain bold
changes, truly progressive transformation. The challenges are immense indeed…”
To go back to the question of the potential impact of the Obama era on Africana
studies, it is important to reprise the electric appeal of Obama the candidate to the Pan-
African world, which was rooted in his multiple biographies. Obama was incubated,
physically and politically, in the whirlwind of African decolonization and the American
civil rights movement. His varied racial, religious, cultural, spatial, and social afﬁliations
make him the quintessential subject and sign, signiﬁer and signiﬁed of a 21st century
Pan-African identity. He is a member of the new African diaspora in his migrant and
transnational background. He beneﬁtted immensely from the struggles of the historic
diaspora, to which he is deeply connected through family, political apprenticeship, and
afrika focus — 2011-12 [ 27 ]
Building intellectuel bridges
President Obama’s rise to the highest political ofﬁce in the world’s lone, albeit de-
clining superpower, cannot but intensify dialogues and recast the dissensions between
Africa and its Diasporas, African Studies and African American Studies. His personal
narrative reinforces the rising appeal of the Diaspora paradigm in African studies. The
evident backlash against his presidency, often couched in barely disguised racist rhetoric,
puts to rest the canard that his election marked the birth of a postracial America. This
might enrich, if not reinscribe, critical race theories and analyses developed in Africana
studies and other ethnic and disapora studies ﬁelds.
Clearly, one electoral victory cannot overturn four centuries of African American
racial oppression and exploitation. Nor can relations between the U.S. and Africa be
expected to change fundamentally because the son of Kenyan foreign student is in the
White House. The dreams of the Civil Rights movement and the African nationalists, of
Dubois and Nkrumah, remain deferred. But the power of the Obama moment in the Pan-
African imagination lies in the historical legacies, the struggles that brought it about,
and the possibilities it beckons.
With the Obama presidency, the political enfranchisement of the diaspora enters a
new period, reminiscent of Africa’s decolonization during which the nationalists gained
political power. But just as independence in Africa did not bring to an end struggles for
development, democracy and self-determination, an African American’s electability to
the U.S. presidency cannot bring to an end struggles for democratic citizenship and so-
cioeconomic empowerment in the diaspora. Such struggles simply enter a new phase.
The fates of African peoples remain intertwined, indeed are even more so today than
at the turn of the twentieth century when the Pan-Africanist movement was born. And
since African peoples are an essential part of our rapidly globalizing world, their study
is a vital component of globalization, indispensable indeed to a deeper understanding
of our common humanity. This is why, it can be argued, Africana studies, as a project
informed by radical politics and critical theory, promises so much for advancing schol-
arship and for cultivating global citizenship. But if it is to discharge its critical emanci-
patory mission for both society and scholarship, for intellectual enlightenment, social
engagement and political empowerment, it must become truly interdisciplinary and in-
ternational, and shed its defensive supplication to the Eurocentrisism of the disciplines
and the export of U.S. academic ethnocentrism.
Those who claim theories, stylized facts and narratives constructed out of limited
experiences of a small portion of humanity are the epitome of intellectual rigor and excel-
lence are quite amusing in their misguided civilizational conceit. Africana scholars must
continue critiquing such conceits and deconstructing the deeply entrenched ediﬁce of
Eurocentrisism embedded in the disciplines created in the 19th and early 20th centuries
when the Euroamerican world was hegemonic politically, economically, and intellectual-
ly. At the same time they need to create more empowering knowledges from multicultur-
al, multi-methodological, multidisciplinary, and multi-theoretical perspectives that are
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p. tiyambe zeleza
more beﬁtting the pluralized worlds of the 21st century. These must also be knowledges
that give true content and meaning to transformative engaged scholarship.
These struggles are essential for raising the intellectual standing of Africana schol-
ars and scholarship, which continues to be low in an era when the epistemic and ethical
values they profess, namely, interdisciplinarity, internationalization, and intercultural-
ism are professed by many in the academy and are sorely needed in public life. They are
also indispensable for their institutional viability and sustainability in an era of diminish-
ing resources in which collaboration among academic programs and even consolidation
is becoming a ﬁnancial imperative.
In short, the future for African, African American, Diaspora and Africana studies
in the United States and elsewhere can only be assured through critical understanding
of the complex and shifting terrain of higher education, the changing intellectual, in-
stitutional, and ideological dynamics of knowledge production in different spatial and
institutional locations, and the ability to undertake strategic and creative interventions,
engagements, and transformations.
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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the conference on “[Un]Disciplined Encounters: Science as Terrain of
Postcolonial Interaction between Africa and Europe,” Ghent University, University Foundation, Brussels, Belgium,
November 5-6, 2010.