African American Studies: Defining Discipline

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Mollie Geske

Instructor Gary Holcomb

African American Studies

16 February 2011
African American Studies Definition Essay Two

When defining any discipline that the world offers, it is important to discuss its origin, pre-disciplinary history, and its formation as an actual academic study. According to Professor Robert Lee Harris Jr., “African studies is the multidisciplinary analysis of the lives and thought of people of African ancestry on the African continent and throughout the world” (Harris 321). While analyzing Harris’s definition of African Studies, one must focus greatly on the fact that ancestry has an immense impact on creating a disciplinary study. Disregarding the history of the African people before establishing a study about them only hinders the opportunity a student has to fully understand what they learn about. “For some four hundred years, Europeans conquered and divided the whole of the African continent among themselves. The dark cloud of colonialism descended over Africans, whose land, labor, and economical wealth were methodically and thoroughly exploited and stripped by colonial powers” (Martin and Young 4). Anthropologists studied African people during the time of colonization and therefore, started the African Studies. Although the anthropologists had the opportunity to study the culture, language, and lifestyle of the Africans, they unfortunately developed a colonial-based view. Oppressed by the biased information gathered by European anthropologists, the African Studies moved away from a credible curriculum for many years. In order to advance the African Studies and help the discipline have an adequate curriculum, early black literary and historical associations such as Philadelphia’s American Negro Historical Society and Carter G. Woodson’s Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) sought to preserve and to publicize the legacy of African peoples. Also, the ASALH laid the groundwork for...
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