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Building intellectual bridges: from African studies and African American studies to Africana studies in the United States

Author(s): Zeleza, Paul Tiyambe

Journal: Afrika Focus
ISSN 0772-084X

Volume: 24;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 9;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: African studies | African American studies | African diaspora studies | Africana studies

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 migrations 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 especially the field of diaspora studies. The paper concludes with an examination of the likely impact of the Obama era on Africana studies.

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