Our Department

The Discipline of Africana Studies

As a field of study, Africana Studies analyzes the history, cultures, modes of political thought and social movements engendered by the freedom struggles of black people. It engages as well the unfinished work of achieving fully enfranchised forms of citizenship and the many forms of expressive culture African diasporic communities have created and inspired as articulations of their histories, experiences, and struggles. In so doing, Africana Studies trains students in the analytical tools necessary for rigorous and culturally sensitive analyses of racial formation both historically and in contemporary societies.

Africana Studies Department

The Africana Studies major offers an interdisciplinary, comparative approach to the study of the history, politics, cultures, literatures, and experiences of peoples in Africa and the African Diaspora. Through this course of study, students come to see the centrality of Africa and the black Diaspora in the modern world and develop a critical understanding of the political, social and ideological forces that shape their place in the world. Our introductory courses encourage students to understand the world from multidisciplinary and transnational perspectives, to critically engage with primary and secondary materials, to develop key geographical knowledge and to engage in comparative analysis. In consultation with their Africana advisor, majors determine a course of study that draws from a range of disciplinary and/or theoretical perspectives. This coursework includes a required colloquium which grounds students in key theories and methodologies of the black Diaspora, a Harlem course that asks students to think about our historic location in relation to the larger Diaspora and a senior seminar that requires students to conduct groundbreaking research.

This multidisciplinary training not only involves a questioning of disciplinary boundaries, but also provides students with the intellectual tools necessary to think critically about the production and dissemination of knowledge. Our home in a premier college for women means that Africana Studies majors at Barnard develop a particular understanding of how gender and sexuality, as well as race, class, religion and region interact with and transform each other in individual and group experiences.


As a department for the multidisciplinary study of the history, politics, cultures, and literatures of Africa and African Diaspora communities in the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe, Africana Studies at Barnard is defined by a unique approach to studying the African Diaspora that centers on a gendered analysis of racial and diasporic formations. Its central mission is to train students to think critically about the gendered nature of racial difference from a relational perspective: at once locally, globally, and trans/nationally. The curriculum provides students with a deep knowledge of:

  • the history of African and African-descended cultures forged prior to and as a result of the Middle Passage;
  • the transnational communities of affiliation created in response to diasporic dispersal; and
  • the diverse forms of cultural production engendered by Blacks in the multiple contact zones that constitute the African diaspora.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the major in Africana Studies should be able to attain the following outcomes:

  1. integrate research tools and methods from a range of disciplines in order to study the history, politics, cultures, literatures, and experiences of peoples in Africa and the African Diaspora;
  2. compare histories and cultures of black peoples across the globe;
  3. evaluate and interpret primary and secondary source materials;
  4. express themselves effectively in writing and oral presentations;
  5. demonstrate their understanding of Harlem's symbolic and historical importance to peoples of the African Diaspora;
  6. identify and communicate the importance of Africa and the African Diaspora to an increasingly global, diverse and interconnected world;
  7. demonstrate in their coursework knowledge of the key intellectual traditions of the African Diaspora;
  8. analyze and critique representations of peoples or cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora;
  9. design, execute and present an original research project.