Summer Institute

CFAS Summer Institute for Pre-First Year Students is scheduled for

Saturday, July 13 – Saturday, July 20, 2024

Please click here to apply


The Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute is one of Penn’s premier Pre-First Year Student programs. This intensive one-week course of study is taught by standing Penn faculty and exposes students to major intellectual and cultural themes and currents in 19th, 20th, and 21st century African and African Diaspora studies.

The Institute is free of charge and includes room, board, books, and course tuition. Students who successfully complete the program's requirements earn 0.5c.u., graded pass/fail. All incoming pre-first year students interested in African, African American, and other African Diaspora studies are eligible to apply for admission to the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute. The location of the 2024 program will be on campus.

The Summer Institute provides a rigorous introduction to the academic and co-curricular life at the University. Graduate Fellows assist students with course work and provide general mentoring. Participating students have access to a network of faculty, graduate students and fellow undergraduate students who support them throughout their Penn careers. Additionally, students who participate in the Institute enhance the leadership skills essential to their success at Penn and beyond. The Institute is free of charge and includes room, board, books, and course tuition (does not include travel).

Who Is Eligible?

All incoming first-year students interested in African, African American and other African diaspora studies are eligible to apply for admission to the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute.

Applications are processed on a rolling admissions basis. Students are encouraged to apply early to secure admission into the 2024 Africana Studies Summer Institute cohort. Space is very limited.

Overview & 2024 Courses

Morning Session (select one)

Whiteness and Education in the US - Professor Ed Brockenbrough

Whiteness as a sociopolitical formation has shaped the very essence of educational spaces and processes in the United States. Drawing upon scholarly perspectives from whiteness studies and educational studies, this course will examine the material and ideological effects of whiteness on teaching and learning in American K-12 and higher educational institutions. Of particular interest will be the implications of critical analyses of and engagements with whiteness in educational contexts for the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute attendees. By identifying the dilemmas associated with whiteness as both a sociopolitical and pedagogical phenomenon, this course will encourage students to consider more liberatory approaches to naming and negotiating whiteness in American education.

Black Womanhood in Latin America & the Caribbean: Agency, Resistance, and Being - Professor Odette Casamayor-Cisneros

Delve into the intricate intersections of identity and experience through the lens of Black womanhood in Latin America and the Caribbean. This course invites students to embark on a profound exploration of self-identification and societal narratives, examining the intricacies of being Black, being a woman, and being part of the Latin American and Caribbean context. Through the works of contemporary Black female writers and artists from the region, students will navigate the complexities of identification, agency, and resistance. Discussions will center on critical issues such as the construction and deconstruction of otherness, the afterlives of slavery, the power of memory and commemoration, and the enduring impact of transgenerational trauma. By fostering a deep understanding of the multifaceted experiences of Black women in Latin America and the Caribbean, this course seeks to illuminate the resilience, creativity, and resistance that shape their narratives. Through dialogue, analysis, and reflection, students will gain insights into the rich tapestry of Black identity and cultural expression in the region, ultimately enriching their understanding of global perspectives and social dynamics.

Race, Cities, and the Built Environment - Professor Akira Rodriguez

Throughout history, cities have served as important sites of economy, politics, and culture. As spaces of economic and political opportunity, they attract a diverse population with shared and competing needs and interests.  While urban planners and policymakers have a codified role in constructing and governing cities to meet these needs and interests, residents also have an important role in either supporting or resisting them.  As cities are made and re-made, the built environment (buildings, streets, green and open spaces) reflects these struggles and interests. From slum clearance to redlining to urban renewal to gentrification, the transformation of the city’s-built environment are expressions of the struggles around cultural norms, economic priorities, and political capacity and opportunity. Quite often, these struggles are racialized, classed, and gendered in ways that conscribes nonwhite women of low-wealth into the least (economically and politically) valuable areas of the city. Without access to economic and political capital, residents in these areas tend to have lower life expectancy, fewer employment options, poorer school quality, greater risk of exposure to environmental hazards, and other dimensions of social vulnerability. There is an interdependent relationship between race and racialization, city-making and governance, and the quality and condition of the built environment.

In this course, we will read about how different aspects of the built environment (land, housing, schools, transportation, and parks) transformed over the 20th century in US cities, and what were the role of race and racial difference in these shifts.  The course will ask questions such as:

·        How has our understanding of race and racialization changed over time and across different areas of the country?

·       What policies or politics have maintained racial separation and difference in the city?

·       What are some harms from racially segregated neighborhoods? Are there benefits?

·       What are some recommendations for new programs and policies that address some of these long-term systemic differences between race, cities, and opportunity?


Afternoon Session (select one)

Africa Through Literature - Professor David Amponsah

This course offers a window into African history, culture, politics, and geography by looking at how fiction reflects reality or, in the words of Chinua Achebe, “the ways in which fiction can be true.” The course introduces students to some of the major theme in the study of Africa, ranging from tradition, modernity, colonialism, independence, corruption, gender, religion, identity, and diaspora. We will focus on the continents three eras: precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial. Popular representations of Africa in North America and Europe are marked by a reductionist and stereotyped image of African creativity, if not by the absence of creative expression altogether. Our first task, then, will be to critically assess the all-too-common framing of Africa as continent of conflict, disease, disasters, and poverty. How do African writers represent themselves, their communities–both their beauties and challenges? This course seeks to provide students with points of entry for answering this important question by examining some of the internal and external forces that have shaped the continent. At the end of the course, students will walk away with tools with which to talk about Africa. The course will be conducted in a seminar format.

Exploring Black Sacred Culture in the U.S - Professor Vaughn Booker

This course will introduce students to the varieties of African American sacred expression in the twentieth century, and up to the present, through an examination of history, memoir, orality, musical performance, documentary film, and more.

All The Stars: Afrofuturism in Black Popular Music - Professor Jasmine Henry

From the cosmic sonic voyages of Sun Ra to the queer posthuman articulations of Janelle Monáe, this course considers how Afrofuturistic popular music performers in the United States envision and render Black utopic futures grounded in Afro-diasporic experiences. Students will be introduced to key aesthetic principles and philosophical theories in Afrofuturism to help them better understand how the artistic works associated with this movement function as distinct forms of Black cultural knowledge and expression. We will pay particular attention to issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, space, place, technology and spirituality as they emerge in Afrofuturist musical works. We will also interrogate how this Black radical intellectual tradition challenges Eurocentric portrayals of science fiction, technocultures, utopian thought, and futurity. Through short listening and writing exercises, students will analyze written, audio, and visual sources that speak to Black conceptions of the non-linear nature of the past, present, and future. By the end of the course, students will have improved music analytic skills, be able to engage critically with Black creative expressions, and ability to develop compelling arguments and articulate them through speech and writing.

Questions? Please email Ms. Teya Campbell, Associate Director for the Summer Institute, at