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The African Diaspora and the Disciplines

Edited by Tejumola Olaniyan and James H. Sweet

Publication Year: 2010

Focusing on the problems and conflicts of doing African diaspora research from various disciplinary perspectives, these essays situate, describe, and reflect on the current practice of diaspora scholarship. Tejumola Olaniyan, James H. Sweet, and the international group of contributors assembled here seek to enlarge understanding of how the diaspora is conceived and explore possibilities for the future of its study. With the aim of initiating interdisciplinary dialogue on the practice of African diaspora studies, they emphasize learning from new perspectives that take advantage of intersections between disciplines. Ultimately, they advocate a fuller sense of what it means to study the African diaspora in a truly global way.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The editors incurred many debts in the funding, planning, and execution of this volume. Most of the book’s chapters derive from a two-day international symposium held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in March 2006. This symposium brought together more than a dozen scholars from around the world. Without the generous financial support of our sponsors, such an event could not have been possible. Our major benefactors...

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pp. 1-17

The African diaspora has become a most vibrant area of research and teaching interest across the disciplines in the past two decades in the American academy. The larger context of this boom is the rise of varieties of minority, postcolonial, transnational, and migration studies. Institutional units or subunits dedicated to African Diaspora Studies have multiplied across universities, and scholarly books, journals, special issues of journals, and articles continue to be published...

Part One. Histories

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pp. 19

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1. Clio and the Griot: The African Diaspora in the Disciplineof History

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pp. 21-52

Given the multiplicity of expressive languages with which african peoples have encoded, remembered, and recovered their experiences, it may seem at first glance counterintuitive to separate the ways of knowing imparted by specific disciplines. Yet, upon closer consideration, it presents an opportunity to assess the analytical tools of those fields to better understand their unique contributions and potential for enhancing the...

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2. African Diaspora and Anthropology

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pp. 53-74

Although W. E. B. Du Bois apparently wrote of the “black diaspora” in The Crisis, 1 anthropology, like its sister disciplines, managed to get along without the term “black [or African] diaspora” until quite recently. Indeed, a French anthropologist has just now published a brave book to introduce her countrymen to this foreign concept, not yet part of French...

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3. How Genetics Can Provide Detail to the Transatlantic African Diaspora

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pp. 75-100

In addition to the major role that genetic data play in elucidating disease susceptibilities, genetic data are increasingly being used to reconstruct ancestral origins and identify familial ties, even when they extend back for hundreds of years. For those interested in the latter, with respect to the transatlantic african diaspora, genetic data are proving to be valuable adjuncts to historical, linguistic, ethnographic, and archaeological data ...

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4. Landscapes and Places of Memory: African Diaspora Research and Geography

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pp. 101-118

A broad definition of the discipline of Geography begins with the integrated study of people, places, and environments. In bridging the social and biological sciences, Geography offers a holistic approach to contemporary and historical problems. How can this discipline contribute to african diaspora studies? as I hope to show, Geography may add reason-able inferences to the gaps in the historical record...

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5. African Diaspora in Archaeology

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pp. 119-142

Archaeology is unique among the social sciences and humanities because of its ability to examine periods hundreds and thousands of years ago. Consequently, archaeology has the potential to investigate the earliest diasporas out of Africa assuming that sites associated with these migrations and resettlement can be rediscovered. as the cradle of humanity, Africa witnessed its first migration of early hominids from Africa...

Part Two. Social Sciences

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pp. 143

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6. Caribbean Sociology, Africa, and the African Diaspora

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pp. 145-160

If I were writing about sociology’s representation of Africa and its diaspora in the 1960s or 1970s, I probably would write it from the perspective of American sociology in spite of being a person from and a sociologist of the Caribbean. This approach, which now sounds so peculiar, would probably have been the case because of my sociological training at Cornell...

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7. African Diaspora and Political Science

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pp. 161-172

American Political Science—that is, political science as practiced in the United States—does not have a subdiscipline devoted to the study of the African diaspora. Subjects connected to the African diaspora are generally included in Race or Minority Studies within the field of American politics or in what has traditionally been called “Area Studies,” which is itself part of what is known as “Comparative Politics.” Area...

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8. The African Diaspora and Philosophy

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pp. 173-190

What could be difficult about writing on the subject of African diaspora and philosophy? The African diaspora1 has increasingly become the object of scholarly exertions. What is more, given my awareness that the United States is one of the fastest growing markets for the subdiscipline of African philosophy, and the closing decades of the last century...

Part Three. Arts and Culture

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pp. 191

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9. “Function at the Junction”? African Diaspora Studies and Theater Studies

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pp. 193-212

To specify a relationship between African Diaspora Studies and Theater Studies is in one sense to draw a map, but it soon becomes apparent that one can not get there from here, for African Diaspora Studies has, at present, little connection to or visibility within Theater Studies. Unable to pinpoint the place or official site of conjuncture, I offer instead an itinerary by which we may arrive at a space where the practice of diaspora...

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10. Ethnomusicology and the African Diaspora

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pp. 213-233

Ethnomusicologists seldom fit comfortably within disciplinary boxes. Like music making in the African diaspora, the practice of ethnomusicology seems always to push beyond academic boundaries almost as soon as they are constructed. While it is true that departments of Music are the principal academic homes for those who study music as cultural practice, many scholars choose to borrow heavily from, or even work within...

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11. Semioptics of Africana Art History

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pp. 234-255

For every successful Michael Jordan, Mohammed Ali, or O. J. Simpson, there are hordes of young black men whose lives have been negatively impacted by the popularity of basketball and other contact sports in the United States. This reality is shown in the work of several African American artists, notably David Hammons, John Yancey, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who convey the contradictions of athleticism that have...

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12. Out of Context: Thinking Cultural Studies Diasporically

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pp. 256-275

The singular claim of Cultural Studies is that there can be no project of the political, no thinking of the political, without culture, without the study of culture at its core.1 As a discipline inherently resistant to definition, Cultural Studies can be broadly understood as a field of study (founded in the mid-1950s) attentive to historical conjuncture. It is marked as a field that has, from its inception, taken seriously the intersection amongst politics, various popular cultures (as well as cultures...

Part Four. Diaspora Contexts

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pp. 277

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13. African Diaspora Studies in the Creole-Anglophone Caribbean: A Perspective from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

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pp. 279-297

The topography I delineate here is, of necessity, well-traveled terrain. I rehearse arguments I have elaborated in my own work on Jamaican popular culture in order to demonstrate the scope of African diasporic praxis in a Caribbean context. I certainly do not claim “exemplary” status for my culture-specific readings of African diasporic cultural texts. Rather, I carefully delimit the boundaries of my project, drawing attention...

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14. South Africa’s Elusive Quest for an African Identity:The Ironies of a South Africa–Led African Renaissance

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pp. 298-312

In 1959, two of South Africa’s leading intellectuals, Eskia Mphahlele and Gerard Sekoto, visited the offices of the Society of African Culture in Paris. There they met with the editors of Presence Africaine and asked them, “Where do we come in—we, who are detribalized and are producing a proletariat art.”1 Mphahlele had just come from South Africa. He was dismissive and disdainful of negritude as just another form of “medieval clannishness.” This reflected the dominant political culture of the ANC...

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15. “Black Folk Here and There”: Repositioning Other(ed)African Diaspora(s) in/and “Europe”

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pp. 313-338

The story I will begin to recount is one that seeks to expand the way we think about African diaspora(s) in/and “Europe.” Using broad brushstrokes, I will explore two compound problematics that stand in as distillations rather than crystallizations of relevant debates. First, why is it difficult to confine or define the African Diaspora in/and Europe, and what impact has the pioneering work of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy had...


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pp. 339-342


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pp. 343-363

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001337
E-ISBN-10: 0253001331
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354648

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2010