Woodson Symposium: Final Day & the Future of Africana StudiesPosted: April 9, 2011
I made it to only one panel today, but it was a good one. Texts and Methodologies of Africana Studies explored current challenges in African and African American studies and offered intriguing glimpses of the future of these evolving fields. I found two presentations particularly interesting.
Jemima Pierre of Vanderbilt University gave a paper entitled “Writing Ghana, Imagining Africa, and Interrogating Diaspora,” in which she discussed the complexities of race relations in postcolonial Ghana, and then offered an insightful analysis of the intellectual gaps that Africana studies must bridge with regard to diasporic and African experiences. Pierre notes, for instance, that the separation between African and African American studies means that scholars of Africa often ignore race and blackness, while those who study race and blackness tend to overlook Africa. She calls for a new theorization of diaspora that is able to synthesize the processes of globalization with postcolonial formations of race.
Lawrie Balfour of the University of Virginia shared research from her new book on W.E.B. Du Bois, and spoke about the need for new ways of thinking about race that can fruitfully connect past and present injustices. Du Bois, Balfour argues, believed that remembrance of past wrongs must be accompanied by a commitment to redress of continuing harms associated with slavery and racial inequality. In her beautifully chosen words: “the constitution of the past is itself a political question,” and we must be wary of the “inauguration of a ‘postracial’ era.” A premature “colorblindness . . . renders us insensible” to too-frequent “violations” of our democratic ideals.