Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Public Responsibility of Pan-African Studies: Scholars Discuss Ways to Strengthen the Discipline

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Public Responsibility of Pan-African Studies: Scholars Discuss Ways to Strengthen the Discipline

Article excerpt

The Public Responsibility of Pan-African Studies: Scholars discuss ways to strengthen the discipline

As discipline, Pan-African studies developed a body of expertise that should, in the future, help focus public policy regarding Africa and the African diaspora, according to scholars who participated in the Pan-African Studies Conference earlier this month.

"What Africana studies is able to do is to fully inform people about what is happening," said Dr. William A. Nelson Jr., research professor in Black studies, professor of political science at Ohio State University, and one of the keynote speakers at the conference.

"It's unfortunate that President [Bill] Clinton was not enrolled in an Africana studies class before his trip," Nelson said, adding that such an education might have motivated him to spend more time exploring, "the civic development that has occurred in Africa."

The Pan-African Studies conference, held at Indiana State University, had as its theme: "Pan Africanism Revisited: African Independence in the 21st Century."

"The quest for political and economic development of the Pan-African community is going to require serious study by scholars and involvement of activists," said Dr. François Muyumba, associate professor of the university's Africana studies department and the originator of the conference fifteen years ago.

Muyumba hopes that such scholarship will translate into the transfer of technology and the creation of "fantastic business opportunities" in Africa and among the African diaspora. For example, he said when he visits his native Congo, he sees women spending "hours and hours" preparing meals. He envisions the creation of small mills that can grind flour and free the time of thousands of African women.

Unlike other disciplines, PanAfrican studies has as part of its stated mission the application of scholarly studies to the practical world.

"The foundations of the discipline were based on academic excellence and social responsibility," said Dr. Diedre Badejo, director of the Institute of African American Affairs in the Department of Pan- African Studies at Kent State University. Badejo, who was one of the speakers at the conference, said that the discipline "comes out of the work of people like...Martin Delany and, later, W.E.B. DuBois who felt that there was an unbreakable bond between academic research and the needs of the community."

In reflecting that blending of theory and practice, the conference focused on such practical issues as how to connect the academy to the community and how to make Pan-African studies departments stronger units within the academy. …

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