Faith Ringgold, The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles
Faith Ringgold, The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles

Africana Studies encompasses a broad set of evolving intellectual and political projects that center the multifaceted lives and ideas of people of African descent, wherever they reside. It provides a cross-culturally and historically comparative framework to study the rich connections and exchanges among African people, their descendants, and the various “new worlds” in which they have made and are making their lives. Its primary organizing principles are race and culture.

As a field of study, Africana Studies explores the shared and divergent experiences, identities, and discourses that reflect and shape the lives of people of African descent. It places particular emphasis on the historical construction and circulation of ideas of Blackness and African-ness under a specific set of systems: slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow, Apartheid, the Cold War, post-colonialism, neoliberalism, mass incarceration, and the Global War on Terror.

The field of Africana Studies is concerned with understanding how these systems support global white supremacy. As a political project, Africana Studies has a rich tradition of activism; it seeks to challenge the political and material basis of the system white supremacy, which relies on notions and practices of race, class, gender, and sexuality to distinguish among and dominate people. Through multidisciplinary training, students develop analytic, research, and literary skills; they acquire the intellectual tools to critique and correct the distortions and silences about Africans and their descendants in both academic canons and public discourse.

Students can pursue their intellectual interests in Africa and its diasporas through on-campus courses and off-campus studies programs (including four programs offered through Carleton’s departments of French and Francophone studies, history, and environmental studies, as well as several Carleton Global Engagement programs in community development, arts, and culture), and through a rich variety of courses in nearly all curricular exploration divisions. In addition to coursework, students are encouraged to take advantage of the department’s rich array of speakers, exhibits, and co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

The Africana Studies major prepares students for lifetime engagement in scholarship as well as in fields such as law, public policy, education, public health, social work, and the arts. The Africana Studies minor is a critical addendum to any major, offering directed inquiry in conversation with other disciplinary approaches.