The Africa Initiative of Syracuse University is a campus-wide project housed in the Department of African American Studies within the College of Arts and Sciences. Its purpose is to focus on Africa as an important site of knowledge by highlighting teaching, research and publication work by Syracuse University scholars in the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, mathematics, engineering and others.
The Initiative aims to revitalize interest in Africa, which has been on the wane in many institutions of higher learning since the end of the Cold War. In this respect, it is important to note that Syracuse University once had a vibrant African Studies Program, although notable resources accumulated during its existence, such as the East African Collection at the Bird Library, remain. Moving forward from this history, the Africa Initiative is building upon this previous experience while charting new directions, including offering a significant pool of experts specializing in various aspects of this diverse and richly endowed continent.
The Africa Initiative’s presence in the Department of African American Studies reinforces a critical site where most academic work on Africa at Syracuse University is done and where the Continent and the Caribbean are perceived as concomitant parts of the department’s Pan-Africanist vision. In bringing together Syracuse University scholars from various disciplines, the Africa Initiative not only promotes interdisciplinary exchange, but also reinforces the university’s ongoing effort to diversify and internationalize the educational experience of our students. As such, the Initiative places great emphasis on study-abroad programs in Africa, as well as the provision of financial resources to give students exposure to that continent.
By providing an alternative vision and platform for constructive discourse on Africa and African peoples, the Africa Initiative is helping alter the dominant perception of Africa as a continent ridden with perpetual crises and despair.