The Department of Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee is committed to producing and communicating interdisciplinary knowledge and creative and critical thinking skills through rigorous research, teaching, service, and publication on the cultures, arts, institutions, histories, political economies, religious traditions, and philosophies of African peoples and the African Diasporas. Africana Studies is multicultural, interdisciplinary, and transnational in its orientation; its reach extends from Africa to North America, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe.
Africana Studies is also rooted in the traditions, history, and agency of the African Americans who were instrumental in the emergence of Africana Studies programs in the United States. The central goal of the Department of Africana Studies—in keeping with the objectives of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the strategic plans of the University of Tennessee—is to provide students with a comprehensive interdisciplinary education, which will equip them with critical knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the multiple dimensions of Africa and its Diasporas, and help prepare them to live in a globalized world.
The curriculum of the program focuses on:
- The diversity and complexity of indigenous African cultures, histories, religions, and civilizations;
- the impacts of slavery, colonialism, war, terrorism, genocide, racism, and imperialism;
- the consequences of social inequalities in the form of race/ethnicity, class, and gender;
- the disparities in health and education and environmental problems;
- the issues of globalization and the fast changing world of science and technology;
- training students for leadership and service;
- the positive impacts of social and national/civil rights movements; and,
- the importance of education, democracy, human rights, self-determination, multiculturalism, and sustainable development.
The department trains students from different backgrounds to explore and understand these and other relevant issues by using a variety of intellectual tools including critical interdisciplinary and multicultural approaches, theories, and comparative methodologies. For its majors and minors, Africana Studies offers general and specialized training to prepare them to be productive and responsible global citizens. The department trains all students to become lifelong learners who are prepared not only for further educational opportunities, but are equipped with the creative and critical thinking skills that will allow them to succeed in an evolving job market.
In addition to classroom training, Africana Studies offers students the opportunity to study abroad (currently, there are programs in Ghana, South Africa, and Uganda). Students also participate in extracurricular activities such as conferences and colloquia, and interact with scholars from various disciplines from across the university, and with invited scholars—both national and international. These scholars’ commitment to critical interdisciplinary scholarship and social justice enhance students’ understanding of rigorous collaborative research and further prepare them for the demands of an increasingly diverse global environment.
A double major in Africana Studies and English (’19), Monica Brashears has published her debut novel House of Cotton (Flatiron Books, 2023).