Dept of Africana Studies celebrates first anniversary
It will hold a two-day conference to discuss the future of the field
October 16, 2013, 3:52 pm · Updated October 16, 2013, 8:43 pm·
Amanda Suarez | DP
The Department of Africana Studies is holding a two-day multidisciplinary conference in celebration of its establishment a year ago.
The conference, Africana Studies: Future of the Field, which is co-sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies, starts today. It brings together distinguished scholars from Penn and other institutions to discuss “where the field ought to go, where it’s going and what areas need3 additional attention,” Chair of Africana Studies Department Barbara Savage said.
“[The conference is] celebrating our departmental status and laying out the issues in the field as we see them,” Penn anthropology and Africana studies professor Deborah Thomas said.
A premiere showing of a documentary by sociology professor Tukufu Zuberi, “African Independence,” will kick off the conference tonight. The film serves as “visual documentation” for African growth and independence by focusing on four events: World War II, the end of colonialism, the Cold War and the era of African republics. It is being presented alongside “Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of War Poster,” an exhibit at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, as part of Zuberi’s Africana Media Project.
Africana Studies first came to Penn as a program in 1971, and its presence grew with the establishment of a center in 2002.
The department was formally approved by the Board of Trustees in summer of 2012. Former Department of Africana Studies chair Camille Charles said in a previous interview with the DP that establishing an official department shows change in the University’s attitude towards the field.
“For graduate and undergraduate students, having departmental status signals a level of respect, legitimacy and permanence,” Charles said.
The conference will consist of panel discussions and a speech from keynote speaker and former director of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies Farah Jasmine Griffin.
Panelists include Jafari Allen, associate professor at Yale University who studies blackness, sexuality and gender, and Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton University who studies race and African American culture in disciplines such as law, music and the social sciences.
These scholars will have the time to talk about the “areas of deficiency and opportunity” in the field of Africana studies,” Savage said.
This conference marks a unique opportunity for different Africana scholars to come together, Zuberi said, giving them a chance in “contemplating [their] way forward.”
“We’re hoping that this unusual mix will yield a lot of creative thinking about the ways in which this field is ready to move forward in the 21st century,” Savage said.