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PhD Requirements

The Program is designed to provide students with the flexibility to design courses of study that reflect their individual interests and are responsive to emerging fields of research within African, African American, and African Diaspora Studies. The program's requirements have also been specifically designed so that dual degree students can complete all requirements in both programs. The Program admits students for the PhD degree only. All applicants will automatically be considered for fellowship awards. All students in good standing are provided full tuition and living stipends.

Three-Track Approach

The three tracks of concentration in African Studies, African American Studies, or Diaspora Studies will allow students to select both a topical and an area studies sub-field. Hence, for example, a student who wishes to study public policy can do so while focusing attention on the experiences of African peoples in specific locations in the United States, South America, Africa, or the Caribbean.

Prospective students must identify which track they will pursue during the first year of study; however, double track concentrations are welcomed and encouraged.

To obtain the PhD, students will be required to meet the following requirements:

  • Complete the Core Program.
  • Pass an examination in a language of library research by October of the second year (for students pursing research in a language other than English)
  • Complete 14 course units (includes five Core and two Second-Tier Courses)
  • Complete two years introduction to an African language (for students who select the African Studies track)
  • Complete a 30-book exam by the end of the second year (for PhD students only)
  • Pass the Final Oral Examination, based on a draft proposal for doctoral research and written statements on four related fields of specialization (two major and two minor)
  • Submit a Dissertation that is acceptable to both the graduate group and the Graduate Council of the Faculties

Core Courses

The Core Program consists of four courses taught by Center for Studies faculty and can be shaped to emphasize their particular areas of expertise. In some cases, other courses may serve as alternatives for fulfilling these requirements.

  • Proseminar in Africana Studies: Focuses on the historical and cultural relationship between Africans and their descendants abroad.
  • Introduction to Africa and African Diaspora Thought: Examines the processes by which African peoples have established epistemological, cosmological, and religious systems both prior to and after the institution of Western slavery.
  • Cultural and Literary Theory of Africa and the African Diaspora: Introduces students to the theoretical strategies underlying the construction of coherent communities and systems of representation and how those strategies influence the uses of expressive culture over time.
  • Political Economy and Social History of Africa and the African Diaspora: Provides the opportunity for students to investigate the relationship between the emergence of African peoples as historical subjects and their location within specific geopolitical and economic circumstances.

Second-Tier Courses

In addition to the four first-year courses, students must take two additional methodology courses by the end of their second year in either:

  1. Ethnographic Methods
  2. Quantitative Methods
  3. Methods course specific to an existing graduate group

Apart from the Core and Second-Tier Courses, no other specific courses are required. The remaining courses of the 20-course unit requirement are expected to satisfy disciplinary standards and are chosen in consultation with faculty advisors.


First-Year Comprehensive Examination

All students must pass a Preliminary Examination in May of their first year. The Preliminary Examination is a two-day (four hours each day) examination that is based on the four Core Courses. Two graduate group members will administer and evaluate the student's performance. The exam is graded Pass/Fail. A satisfactory performance on the examination is a requirement for an A.M. degree in the program. A superior performance is a requirement for continuation in the program as a Ph.D. candidate.


Language Requirements

Students whose research is conducted in a language other than English are required to pass an examination in a language of library research. In order to pass, the candidate must translate into English at a level that demonstrates an ability to do library research reliably in the language. Students should take the examination in a language that they are likely to need in their doctoral research. The examination can be taken in any language spoken in Africa or the African Diaspora except English. To receive an A.M. degree, the student must demonstrate proficiency in at least one non-native language relevant to his or her program.


African Language Requirement

Students who select the African track will be required to take a minimum of four courses (two years) of an African language, such as those required for undertaking field research in Africa or the Diaspora.


A.M. Paper (for Ph.D. students only)

In order to fulfill the research requirement of the Graduate Council of the Faculties, each student must submit an A.M. paper. This paper will normally be written in the context of a graduate course and, if necessary, revised for this occasion. The student's faculty advisory committee must approve the A.M. paper.


Ph.D. Oral Examination

The Ph.D. Oral Examination is taken a semester after the completion of coursework. Students are examined in four related fields of specialization (two major and two minor). Committee members will work with students to identify four fields of specialization relating to their dissertation project. Students will then be expected to work with committee members to develop comprehensive reading lists in each of those four fields. Students must be prepared to discuss the relevant scholarly debates and histories of those fields in an examination setting. At the end of the examination, the candidate's performance will be evaluated and graded, either pass with distinction, pass, pass conditionally upon specified further work, re-examination at a later date, or fail. To be admitted to candidacy, students must pass the Oral Examination.


Ph.D. Dissertation

A doctoral dissertation in the program is expected to be a substantial work of original scholarship demonstrating theoretical sophistication and intensive research. Ph.D. candidates are expected to begin full-time research on their dissertation projects immediately upon passing their comprehensive examinations. During the third year of graduate study (or in the case of students with A.M.s, in the second term of the second year), candidates will submit a dissertation proposal to and receive the approval of all members of their advisory committees.