What is Africana Studies at Gettysburg College? How can liberal arts students break into the academy with this interdisciplinary toolkit of learning and training?
On February 23, 2013, The Emerging Scholars Conference took place in CUB 260. This event was organized by the Africana Studies Program, with support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Consortium for Faculty Diversity at Liberal Arts Colleges, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Department of Sociology. Designed as a series of roundtable discussions, scholars specializing in international education, development history, public policy, literature, and cultural studies led three in-depth panels with more than 100 students from over twelve different courses being taught on campus this Spring.
Professors McKinley Melton, Hakim Williams, and Ashley Burns organized and moderated the conference. The first session, “More than just the U.S.: Conceptualizing a Diaspora in Africana Studies” included Ramatu Bangura who discussed educational identities and decision-making of African girls with limited formal schooling in NYC. Dr. Bangura holds an Ed. D. and Ed. M in International and Transcultural Studies from Columbia University. This panel also included Tricia Callender; she has a PhD in Comparative and International Education/Sociology from Columbia University. Dr. Callender examined the intersectionality of education policy, immigration, and xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa. The third panelist was Catherine Herrold, a PhD Candidate in Public Policy at Duke University. Ms. Herrold has an MSc in Voluntary Sector organization from the London School of Economics and an MBA from the Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in Belgium. She explained the role of Egyptian philanthropic foundations and NGO grantees during Egypt’s recent democratic transition. A true highlight of this panel was the deliberate attention to dialogue centered on the ways in which global interests in the Africana Studies diaspora can be incorporated into students’ own classrooms, research, and professional trajectories.
The second session, “More than just Race: Intersections, Identity, and Africana Studies” shifted focus to the complexity of intersectionality in the field. Justin Rose, who has a PhD in Political Science from University of Virginia and an MA in Political Science from Baylor, discussed the significance of approaching democratic theory from the perspective of marginalized populations, using the texts of Martin Luther King Jr. as examples for this approach. Alisha Gaines, who holds a PhD in English and African and African-American Studies from Duke University, presented her current work on the mid-to-late twentieth and twenty-first century narratives of racial impersonation enabled by spurious alibis of racial reconciliation. The final panelist, Allia Abdullah-Matta, has a PhD in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Abdullah-Matta explored the cultural production of Africa and the African Diaspora using artistic and literary texts produced by Black women. During this session presenters used a range of media, including speech, artistic images, and television to reach students who, subsequently, were deeply engaged in vibrant discussion about intersectionality and conceptualizations of otherness, blackness, and whiteness on campus.
The last session of the day was titled, “More than just the Past: A World of Contemporary Conflicts and Africana Studies.” Robert Bland, a PhD student in U.S. History at the University of Maryland, College Park, presented research on shifting notions of political and economic freedom among African Americans in Beaufort County, SC following Reconstruction. Madison Moore, who holds a PhD in American Studies from Yale University, discussed his work and interests as a pop scholar through the lens of “fierceness” and its connections to black queer studies and alternative subcultures. The panel also included Jonathan Fenderson, who holds a PhD in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Fenderson explained work on the Black Arts Movement, cultural activism, and public history.
The Emerging Scholars Conference was a vivid and exciting forum for student engagement, open discussion, and a deliberately rich platform for connecting liberal arts education, undergraduate scholarship, and the broad opportunities that exist for graduate study in the academy.
Article by: Ashley Brown Burns, Gettysburg College Derrick K. Gondwe Scholar