African Studies

Gain a better understanding of the academic discipline of African Studies, an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the study of African peoples, history, and philosophy; arts, literature, culture, geography, ecology, paleontology; and political, economic, and social organization. This simplistic definition, however, does not reflect the significant academic debate surrounding this term and its relationship to other interrelated areas of study, including African-American Studies, Afro-American Studies, Africana Studies, Black Studies, and Africology. Depending on the academic institution, African Studies may be separate from or included as part of programs that study the African-American experience or the African diaspora.

Part of the problem of defining the scope of African Studies relates to the development of the discipline in Western culture. In the United States, historically Black colleges and universities were the first to offer courses in African Studies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, however, African Studies became part of the development of an academic field known as Area Studies in many institutions of higher learning in Europe and the United States. These institutions sought to deepen students’ understanding of non-Western regions in relation to their geopolitical importance to the West and its primary antagonist, the Soviet Union. White scholars dominated the ranks of Africanists, or those who study African languages, cultures, and history, which was exemplified by the racial make-up of the members of the African Studies Association founded in 1957.

With the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans began to agitate for academic departments that better reflected Black people and their experiences, leading to the development of programs that focused specifically on African Americans and championed Black professors and researchers. San Francisco State University established the first Black Studies department in 1968. As similar programs developed, some included African Studies as a minor program intended to provide context to the African-American experience, while others considered the study of Africa as being equally important alongside African-American Studies. The multitude of terms for the programs dedicated to the Black experience reflects the nuances of individual programs’ scopes as well as political concerns. For example, some scholars eschew the use of African Studies because of its association with an era dominated by white academics, preferring terms that reflect an Afrocentric approach.­­­

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African Studies Resources

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Primary Source Archives

Gale Primary Sources contains full-text archives and collections that provide firsthand content, including historical documents, archives, journals and periodicals, news articles, manuscripts, and other publications, and ephemera that examine and analyze African Studies.

Gale eBooks

Gale's eBook collection offers a variety of eBooks covering a wide range of subject areas, including literature, Africa, and more. Users can add Gale eBooks to a customized collection and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download content.

  • African American Literature for Students

    African American Literature for Students

    Gale   |   2020   |   ISBN-13: 9780028666754

    African American Literature for Students contains easily accessible and content-rich discussions of the literary and historical background of 14 works from various periods. The works—not previously covered in any For Students series—are comprised of a variety of genres, including novels, poems, short stories, and dramas. The entries include works by frequently studied and well-established authors as well as by more contemporary, up-and-coming authors.

    Each work included was specially chosen by an advisory panel of teachers and librarians — experts who have helped us define the information needs of students and ensure the age-appropriateness of this reference’s content. Within the pages of African American Literature for Students, young researchers will discover everything they need to complete homework assignments and lead classroom discussions.

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  • Great Minds and Finds in Africa, 1st Edition

    Great Minds and Finds in Africa, 1st Edition

    Bridges  |   2021   |   ISBN-13: 9781731639493

    What do writing, surgery, glaciers, and fossils have in common? They all have histories in Africa, one of Earth’s seven continents. In this exciting learning adventure book, you'll discover these great inventions and more from ancient and modern Africa. The books in this series invite young readers to learn about fascinating people, places, and inventions from each continent on Earth. Covering ancient history to the present day, each 32-page book features helpful maps and vivid photographs that bring each place to life. From art and science to history and technology, discover how each continent's great minds and finds have influenced our world. Each book also includes after-reading questions, a glossary, an index, and an extension activity.

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  • The Palgrave Handbook of African Colonial and Postcolonial History, 1st Edition

    The Palgrave Handbook of African Colonial and Postcolonial History, 1st Edition

    Palgrave Macmillan   |   2018   |   ISBN-13: 9781137594266

    This wide-ranging volume presents the most complete appraisal of modern African history to date. It assembles dozens of new and established scholars to tackle the questions and subjects that define the field, ranging from the economy, the two world wars, nationalism, decolonization, and postcolonial politics to religion, development, sexuality, and the African youth experience. Contributors are drawn from numerous fields in African Studies, including art, music, literature, education, and anthropology. The themes they cover illustrate the depth of modern African history and the diversity and originality of lenses available for examining it. Older themes in the field have been treated to an engaging re-assessment, while new and emerging themes are situated as the book's core strength. The result is a comprehensive, vital picture of where the field of modern African history stands today. This title presents a comprehensive overview of African colonial and postcolonial history, provides an invaluable reference for students and scholars of history and African Studies, and includes 52 chapters from emerging and established authors across numerous disciplines in African history and African Studies. It demonstrates how the field of modern African history has evolved and expanded since the mid-twentieth century.

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