A New Name and a New Direction for Black Studies
Now known as African and African Diaspora Studies Program
By Stephen Gawlik
When Assoc. Prof. Cynthia Young (English) came to Boston College last fall to direct the Black Studies Program, she brought with her a vision that entails a new direction, a new lecture series and, most immediately, a new name.
Recently, the program announced that it will now be known as African and African Diaspora Studies.
The name change reflects new areas of inquiry into the African impact on history and its influence on the present-day global community, says Young. She believes that a focus on both the African continent and the dispersion of African peoples across the globe will give students and faculty alike a more transnational and interdisciplinary context for study.
Underscoring the program's new path is a lecture series, "New Directions in African Diaspora Research," that will kick off Feb. 23 with a talk by Jennifer Morgan of Rutgers University, author of Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery, who will present "Accounting for the Women: Demography and Epistemology in North American Slavery."
The series continues on April 27 with an appearance by Nikhil Singh, author of Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy, who will discuss how race shaped the post-World War II history of the US. Both lectures take place at 7 p.m. in Fulton 511.
"African and African Diaspora Studies is important on this campus, not just in terms of the people who minor in it, but the kinds of dialogue it can create," said Young. "I wanted to bring in up-and-coming thinkers in the field who are writing the books everyone is talking about."
Boston College was one of the first major universities in the United States to offer Black Studies as a permanent part of the academic curriculum when it founded the program in 1969. Today, African and African Diaspora Studies offers some 40 courses a year on the history, culture and experience of African Americans that enroll more than 1,200 students.
Young says the term "Black Studies" was appropriate when the department was established.
"I think that the term 'Black Studies' had a particular moment when it was institutionalized on college campuses in the 1970s, but it is time to signal that this program is conversant with where the field is going," said Young. "African and African Diaspora Studies has changed and covers many more aspects and areas of study.
"Can we look at how different African-descended populations influenced different sites wherever they may be? How have Africans changed history wherever they have gone?" said Young.
Looking ahead, Young says she wants to work with other faculty and administrators to create more flexibility and greater opportunities in the African and African Diaspora offerings through cross-listing of courses across departments and "clustering" courses that would both meet the department's requirements and let students study topics in which they have the most interest.
By doing so, Young hopes that students would come away with a modernized view of the "global city" in which they live and have the intellectual tools to understand the implications of race and ethnicity with a particularly nuanced view of history.
"It's important to say we can't leave Africa out, it's important to study what's happening there today and how it's impacting what's happening in the US today," she said. "We don't have a lot of people focusing on Africa, but hopefully in 10 years we won't be saying that."
For more information on African and African Diaspora Studies see www.bc.edu/aads.