Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Temple Department Changes Its Name

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Temple Department Changes Its Name

Article excerpt

It's not every day that an academic department changes its name.

But a leading scholar at Temple University was successful in convincing university officials and the Board of Governors to change the name of the African American Studies Department to the Africology and African American Studies Department.

The name change, which occurred last year, represents an effort to distinguish Temple's Black studies program from the dozens of other Black studies and African-American studies programs in existence at universities across the nation.

The name change also aligns with the scholarly research of Dr. Molefi Kete Asante--arguably the nation's most recognized Afrocentric scholar--who has long advocated that the department that he chairs should have an African-centered identity.

For Asante, who founded the nation's first doctoral program in Black studies at Temple University in 1985, the renaming signals an epistemological orientation--a way of knowing that centers on the arts, histories and experiences of Black people.

"We wanted to demonstrate that we're not just about anything African. We're about a different perspective, a different epistemology. We are about a different way of seeing," said Asante. "This is the way to look at phenomena; a way to look at the world."

There are currently six faculty in Africology and African American studies at Temple, many of whom use an Afrocentric approach in their research. For example, Dr. Ama Mazama penned a book that examines homeschooling from an African-American perspective. Asante has authored over 80 books.

"Our faculty is small, but we're dedicated," Asante said.

Since its inception in the 1980s, the department's doctoral program has graduated over 170 students. Among prominent alumni are Dr. Greg Carr, chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University; Dr. Christel N. Temple, chair of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Africana Studies; and Dr. Reiland Rabaka, chair of the University of Colorado's Department of Ethnic Studies.

However, it is future graduates who may be most impacted by the new disciplinary nomenclature.

Dr. Nathaniel Norment, a professor of English at Morehouse College and the former chair of African American studies at Temple, said that the disciplines of African American studies and Africana studies have established and recognized methods and theories that guarantee the training of doctoral students. He worries that Africology as a degree title might confuse graduates' prospective employers.

"If I were to get an application from an individual with a degree in African American studies I would know that that person has either focused in on history, literature, political science or psychology within African American studies," said Norment who sometimes clashed with Asante during his time at Temple. "Africology, I would have no clue. I don't think most of the people across the country, even within African American studies, would have a clue of what that degree encompassed."

He said that graduate students on the job market would be at a disadvantage. But Asante disagrees.

"Sometimes people assume that if you come from an Afrocentric department, you may not be able to get a job," he said. He conceded, however, that graduates may have some difficulty getting hired at an institution that believes that "the study of African phenomena should be subsumed under a Eurocentric viewpoint. …

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