Distributed June 15, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Janet Kerlin

Brown announces new Department of Africana Studies

Brown University’s Afro-American Studies Program has been upgraded to department status and will be renamed the Department of Africana Studies, effective July 1. The name change reflects an already broad focus on research and teaching about the African diaspora.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University’s Afro-American Studies Program has been upgraded to department status and will be renamed the Department of Africana Studies on July 1. The faculty approved the measure at a meeting in May and the Board of Fellows of the Brown Corporation, the University’s governing body, gave final approval May 26, 2001, during its Commencement Weekend meeting.

The name change reflects the current broad focus on the African diaspora, the history and culture of people of African descent in North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America, Latin Africa, and the Francophone and Arabic world, said Lewis Gordon, department chair. The curriculum will be expanded to include courses on the rest of the African continent and people of African descent in Europe and Asia.

This is the first Africana Studies Department in the Ivy League, Gordon said. The Africana Studies Department is distinct for its focus on three areas: theory, history and the arts of the African diaspora.

The University has made no decision on additional activities the new department might undertake, including development of a doctoral program and a research center for the study of Africana thought, history and arts. The department’s current plans include continued development of the Rites & Reason Theatre, the oldest black theater in the United States in continuous operation.

A visiting panel of external reviewers said recently that Brown’s department is a leader in Africana thought, philosophy, political and social thought and Caribbean thought. The faculty also provides leadership in such areas as black existentialism, Caribbean history and politics, black feminist thought, critical race theory, black intellectual history, Afro-Latino history and politics, Afro-Native American history and politics, African environmental history, southern African history and politics, and black theater studies.

“The new department is exciting for its development of cutting-edge research,” said Gordon. “Its approach has been to focus on creative ways to look at how academe relates to the community and the future of research. The departmentalization is a step forward in the field of African studies across the country.”

Some 1,000 students each year at Brown have taken Afro-American studies courses that are cross-listed in other departments. Currently there are about 40 students in the program, and this year bachelor’s degrees were presented to 17 graduates.

More information is available at www.brown.edu/Departments/African_American_Studies/