Brown University shieldBrown University

Open Graduate MA & Graduate Certificate in Africana Studies

Open Graduate MA & Graduate Certificate in Africana Studies

The learning goals include providing students with the language and critical thinking tools with which to infuse their individual field(s) of study, research, and teaching with a fluent and usable framework around issues of race, and those issues central to the study of the historical and contemporary life of Africa and the African diaspora, incorporating theories of race and what it means to be a racial being. Given the continuing significance of race and issues of diversity on campus and in the national discourse, this credential will prove marketable.

Africana Studies does not accept applications for terminal masters. Currently enrolled students are awarded a terminal M.A. degree under only exceptional circumstances. 

The Transitional M.A. 

Students enrolled in our Ph.D. program can receive a “transitional M.A.” This degree can be conferred after the successful completion of two years of designated course work. The student must apply for this degree with the Graduate School by their deadline. The application must be supported by the students’ committee and approved by the faculty at a meeting in the spring of the students’ second year. 

The Open M.A.

Students admitted to the open master’s program are required to take eight courses, including the three required courses: 2001; 2002; 2101 (see above). Students must then take at least four additional graduate courses taught by Africana Studies core and affiliated faculty. 

AFRI 2001: “Theories and Histories of Africana Studies.”

This seminar introduces students to the field of Africana Studies, the central questions and concepts within the field, prominent texts and thinkers in the discipline, and the relation of the field to the other academic disciplines and the broader society.

AFRI 2002: “Africana Expressive Cultures and Practices.”

This seminar introduces students to the social, aesthetic, intellectual and political debates regarding the existence, significance and purposes of black/africana cultures. The central issues and debates in popular, expressive and literary arts will be explored. 

AFRI 2101: “Methods in Africana Studies”

This seminar introduces students to the different methodological approaches in the discipline of Africana Studies. Students will be introduced to the critical interdisciplinarity of the discipline as well as methodological approaches from other disciplinary fields that are appropriate for research and study in Africana Studies.

Potential Courses

As examples, the courses for the 2016-17 year include:

AFRI 2501 – Race and Race Making in America I & II (year-long)
AFRI 2013 – Caribbean Literature: Novel, Criticism and Historiography
HIST 2970C – Rethinking the Civil Rights Movement (core faculty joint with History)
AFRI 2104 – Theorizing the Black Diaspora
AFRI 2502 - Race and Nation in the Spanish Caribbean
HUMXX – What about the Human? (core faculty through the Cogut)


The certificate requires students to take the core graduate courses in the field of Africana Studies (offered on a two-year cycle). These are AFRI 2001/2002/2101 (explained above). This will rigorously train students in the core texts, ideas, theories, and methodologies in the field. These classes incorporate significant writing components. In addition, students must take at least one additional course with core faculty at the graduate level AND ONE of the following options:

  • Another course with core faculty at the graduate level (totaling 5) [see example list above]
  • A dissertation chapter (or a significant theoretical/methodological inclusion of Africana Studies in the dissertation). Students might utilize this option when an Africana Studies core faculty member is on their committee and will assess their work accordingly.

In addition we teach a number of upper level undergraduate seminars suitable for graduate students.

Independent Studies can also be utilized with core faculty in the Department to tailor the theoretical applications to students’ individual interests.


Students must meet with the current DGS to ascertain the suitability for the MA or certificate based on research goals and interests. Open Grad applicants go through the Graduate School. Certificate applicants use UFUNDS and include a statement explaining their interests and intellectual rationale for undertaking the certificate requirements. The department’s graduate studies committee will then discuss and decide the student suitability. Oftentimes students will have already taken a course or two in the department before deciding to apply.

Students will have a form to document their progress in the program, listing the courses taken and the grade earned. Instructors will determine whether or not students have passed their requirements satisfactorily. The DGS will administer the program. Evaluation is based on satisfactory performance in the courses. We will evaluate the program yearly with student and faculty input.