What is the current state of African-American studies in universities?
June 9, 2008 7:49 AM   Subscribe

What is the current state of African-American studies in universities?

I'd like to know what the most important topics are for those studying African-American history, culture and society. What are the academics discussing? What have they recently thrown out? What's the best and most important new literature (books or scholarly articles, even newspaper articles) on the subject? Both US and internationally.
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I am really not an expert on A-A studies (and will follow this thread closely as it's a fascinating subject), but I do know that race and gender studies have both grappled with, and benefitted from, the advent of post-colonialism and postmodernism that call into question "fixed" labels. Being "African-American" varies between second-generation Somalian immigrants in Columbus, to biracial New Yorkers in Brooklyn, to Kenyan taxi drivers, to upper-class ebonics scholars at Harvard, ad finitum. Class, gender, culture, politics, religion are all part of those nacreous layers that make Blackness impossible to separate and pick apart.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:05 AM on June 9, 2008

zoomorphic, this is pretty much the answer I was expecting, as nobody wants to be generalized. This is the multicultural/PoMo condition. I'm also looking for specific studies or case studies or theories.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2008

One way to get a broad sense of the field is to look at recent journal tables of contents, or conference programs. Here is a page with a link to a pdf of this year's National Association of African American Studies conference. Just one organization, of course. You could also look at what's being taught, for example at my institution here (I'm not affiliated with the program).
posted by Mngo at 9:57 AM on June 9, 2008

Also meant to say: zoomorphic, love that word nacreous, thanks!
posted by Mngo at 9:59 AM on June 9, 2008

I would look at the reading lists and syllabi of upper division seminars at universities with strong programs. If these are not posted online, you can probably write to a faculty member to ask for a copy. The reading lists in particular will give you a good sense of what's under discussion.
posted by gyusan at 10:09 AM on June 9, 2008

Once again, from a non-expert: one facet of the solidly, old-school African-American identity politics has come under a lot of criticism lately. I'm thinking of Bill Cosby, who's taken a disturbingly conservative finger-wagging approach to the Current State of Black Delinquency, which calls for reinstating patriarchal Ameruhcun values within the current generation of young black men. There's an decent critique of Cosby's speeches in last month's Atlantic called ‘This Is How We Lost to the White Man’ by Ta-Nehesi Coates, though I wished he brought up Cosby's implications that a Strong Black Man is necessary in cowing the so-called reigning welfare queens.

Speaking of Strong Black Men, Mark Anthony Neal is a new-ish voice advocating the New Black Men, which combines racial pride and cultural regeneration with the tenents of third-wave feminism. I liked his book, ‘New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity'. Neal apparently has a blog, too.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wow. I had no idea about the New Black Man. Excellent suggestion. Thanks!
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 1:13 PM on June 9, 2008

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