Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

African and African American Studies to become Africana Studies

<rting with the 2017-2018 school year, Carleton will change the name of the African and African American Studies Program to the Africana Studies Program.

The name change is meant to emphasize the conceptual framework that brings together the diversity of this interdisciplinary program, according to Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg, Director of the African American Studies program.

Unlike African American Studies, Africana Studies will more explicitly examine blackness from multiple perspectives. In other words, Africana Studies is a reference to the intertwined nature of African Studies and African American Studies, making it a more integrative program. This is opposed to teaching the African and the African American experience separately, Feldman-Savelsberg said.

“Africana Studies has gained currency nationwide to indicate African diaspora studies, which includes African American Studies, so it seems quite appropriate to our program,” said American Studies and English Professor Elizabeth McKinsey. “The old name implies two different things joined together in a single program, while Africana Studies seems more compatible with courses that might include both, or look at topics or issues that bridge both and more.”

In fact, many of Carleton’s peer institutions have also changed the name of their programs. Barnard, for instance, made the switch in 2013. In addition, Williams, Bowdoin, Pomona, Vassar, Wellesley, Smith and Oberlin Colleges have Africana Studies programs, and Amherst and Swarthmore Colleges have similarly-designed Black Studies programs.

Carleton began thinking about a name change six years ago. In 2011, external reviewers first suggested switching to Africana Studies in their Program Review report, which is conducted every 10 years in order to evaluate each of the college’s departments and programs.

Then, in 2013, the college hosted a colloquium entitled “Bridging the Gap: African Diaspora, Area Studies, and the Disciplines.” The event featured lectures about the current configuration of Africana Studies, African diaspora and multiculturalism in order to increase the visibility of and information about Africana Studies at Carleton.

The colloquium inspired additional conversations within the African and African American Studies program and, ultimately, helped inform the program’s decision to change names, according to a letter from Feldberg-Savelsberg to Dean of Faculty Beverly Nagel last year.

Since the colloquium, Feldman-Savelsberg explained, “staffing issues have impeded us from moving forward toward sustainable change. Indeed, reliance on visiting faculty for our core courses has created an unpredictable environment for student learning, negatively affecting the coherence of our program.”

In the letter, Feldman-Savelsberg requested that Dean Nagel and the Faculty Curricular Planning Committee conduct a search for a tenure-track position in Africana Studies. “Ideally, our new hire would teach and research on the African American experience and yet—grounded in the Africana Studies model—could place African American Studies within a larger picture,” wrote Feldman-Savelsberg. She also noted that “recent national events and campus initiatives,” including the Black Lives Matter movement, call for greater inclusion in academia. She also said that last year’s Community Conversations further justify the hiring of a tenure-track Africana Studies scholar.

In December 2016, the African and African American Studies Program petitioned to the Education and Curriculum Committee for an official name change.

McKinsey said that she doesn’t anticipate a lot of change in the coursework, but expects more interdisciplinary topics, such as Caribbean Studies, to be taught.  

Feldman-Savelsberg added that students might feel more included in the program as a result of the name change.

Going forward, students will “have a framework and a set of courses that speaks to their experience too and that doesn’t erase them from the picture by saying it’s either African or African American,” according to Feldman-Savelsberg. “This binary doesn’t address the complexity and multiplicity of the identities and experiences in histories.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *