African American Studies Mission Statement
The Department of African American Studies is an interdisciplinary academic unit, which engages in teaching and research on the global African experience. AAS recognizes the overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting that the human roots are common and African, thus making the entire world beyond Africa a Pan African laboratory for study. AAS also recognizes a particular responsibility to differentially bring to light those parts of the world African experience, which have traditionally been neglected.
Thus our priority is to focus on and engage in teaching and research about the African, African American and African Caribbean experience, indeed, the global Black world, centering on the Black experience in the United States. We seek not only to counter-balance the Eurocentric bias that has too often ignored or distorted the perception of Africa and Africans, but more importantly to investigate, illuminate and celebrate the world African experience in its own right. Thus while exposing our students to the benefits and liabilities of a variety of centric lenses, we adopt no particular ruling ideology. Rather, we seek to transcend the contemporary dichotomizing debates in favor of multiple exposures and the transmitting of critical and analytical skills that will prepare our students to make their own sense of the world.
Our contemporary mission recognizes that most departments and programs in our field tend to emphasize history through the study of traditional African societies or the legacy of enslavement. Although these are critical models we move beyond them in an attempt to investigate and fill contemporary information voids in the humanities and social sciences. The intellectual work of the Department pays particular attention to Black discourses of gender and incorporates a Pan African understanding of the often-contested paradigm of transnationalism. In addition to rooting our students in historical understanding, we see the need to bring a humanistic lens to study the art, literature, religion, music, etc., of the Pan African world. Similarly, we see a need to bring a social scientific lens in sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, etc., to the study of the contemporary world. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, housed within the Department is an indispensable part of the Department and plays a critical role in fulfilling its mission.
Finally, our mission recognizes the importance of linking African American Studies to the community. The Community Folk Art Center is an integral part of our Department and our mission.