Graduate Studies and Research in Africana/Black Studies: Reflections and New Directions: An Introduction

Article excerpt

Black Studies (1) as an investigation of Africana people across space and time, from the lens of Afrikan cultural reality with the ultimate goal of changing the life chances of Africana peoples, has been a revolutionary discipline and intellectual movement within American institutions of higher education since the late 1960s. The demands made by students at San Francisco State College, Howard University, University of Louisville, Hunter College and many other academic institutions within the United States, are just a few of the examples of what young minds in coalition with radical faculty and compliant (but all too often resistant) administrators were able to produce. Shortly after the creation of undergraduate degree programs, graduate programs developed at various universities to provide specialization and training within the academic discipline of Black Studies. Beginning with institutions like the State University of New York at Albany, Yale University (2) and Cornell University, graduate degree programs within Black Studies began to continue the initial undergraduate demands but on the graduate level. However, it would not be until 1987 (3) that the first Ph.D. program would be proposed and developed at Temple University through the contributions of the late C. Tsehloane Keto, Sonja Peterson-Lewis and Molefi Kete Asante, among others. Today there are over 10 Ph.D. programs in Africana Studies and close to 30 Masters of Arts programs at universities and colleges throughout the United States.

This special edition focuses upon the current state of graduate studies within Africana Studies and also showcases examples of the research produced by current graduate students and recent graduates of some of the discipline's premier programs. There is a rather small and limited amount of literature that directly engages the nature of graduate studies in Africana Studies. (4) While, on the other hand, there is a body of seemingly larger body of literature that discusses graduate studies within Africana Studies on a broader level, even this body of work is rather limited. (5) Thus this special edition, along with the forth-coming special edition of The International Journal of Africana Studies, should have a significant impact upon future discussions of graduate studies within the discipline. (6)

It is also important to note that this special edition on "Graduate Studies and Research in Africana Studies" focuses on research and discussions within Africana Studies that attempt to ground themselves directly within the discipline of Africana Studies. By this we mean our focus is upon engaging the foundational issues of intellectual history, nomenclature, definition, scope, pedagogy and other key factors that define and demarcate the space that the discipline occupies within Western institutions of higher education. Rather than randomly engage research in which the discipline of Africana Studies is an afterthought, the articles and interviews attempt to center and locate the discipline at the foundation of their analysis. In doing so, we attempt to refocus discussions upon Africana Studies and its future prospects as an autonomous academic discipline within American institutions of higher education.

We are glad to begin this special edition with an interview with the most recent and consistent scholar to produce research on graduate studies within Africana Studies, Stephanie Y. Evans. Dr. Evans, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst's Department of Afro-American Studies, is currently an assistant professor of African American Studies and Women Studies at the University of South Florida. Evans' contribution to this special edition provides an overall context for the work to follow. Through an online interview, Dr. Evans reflects upon her current research on the state of graduate studies along with the possible future directions research on graduate studies in the discipline needs should go. …