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Research Areas in Africana Studies At Penn

AFRICANA CIRCUITRIES/NETWORKS

In addition to the study of specific populations, regions, and territories of Afro-descendant peoples, Africana Studies also encompasses the examination of ideas, religious and cultural practices, cuisine, and artifacts in circulation within and across nation-state and regional boundaries.

The historical and present day contours of black transnationalism can be identified in phenomena ranging from missionary work during the age of colonialism and abolition, to the contemporary diffusion of African-derived worship within Voudun, Rastafari, and Candomblé; from the political affinities that shaped anti-colonial and independence movements, to contemporary migration streams from the Global South to the Global North.

Research Area
Transnational Black Politics

 

Faculty Representation
Michael Hanchard | John L. Jackson, Jr. | Tukufu Zuberi | Grace Sanders Johnson

 

Regional Focus
South America, US, Africa, Caribbean 

-

Research Area
Migration

 

Faculty Representation
Heather A. WilliamsMichael Hanchard | John L. Jackson, Jr.  | Grace Sanders Johnson

 

Regional Focus
Caribbean, South America, Middle East 

-

Research Area
Transnational Religious Networks

 

Faculty Representation
Anthea Butler | David Amponsah | Barbara D. Savage

 

Regional Focus
US, Africa

ARTS AND PERFORMANCE

Film, art, music, literature, and theatre are sites within which the complexities of black experience are explored, revisited, and refashioned.

Scholars of Africana Studies have productively engaged with these performative and embodied ways of knowing and of generating knowledge in order to examine the relationship between aesthetics and politics and the myriad ways that the arts actively mediate history and memory, represent contemporary challenges and issues, and innovate future possibilities.

Research Area
Black Musics


Faculty Representation
Timothy Rommen | Herman Beavers


Regional Focus
Caribbean, US

-

Research Area
Film/Cinema/Media Studies


Faculty Representation
John L. Jackson, Jr.  | Anthea Butler | Tukufu Zuberi


Regional Focus
Caribbean, US, Middle East, Africa, South America

-

Research Area
Africana Literatures


Faculty Representation
Herman Beavers


Regional Focus
US 

CULTURAL STUDIES AND ANTHROPOLOGY

Africana Studies scholars trained in Anthropology and Cultural Studies have produced pioneering scholarship in interrogating the distinction between self and other that for years was the key defining feature of the discipline of anthropology.

The legacies of colonialism and racial hierarchy long constituted Afro-descendant and many non-Western populations as other, and the social, political, and often decolonial projects that these communities work to realize in black popular and religious practice are at the center of current research in Africana Studies. 

Research Area
Ethnography


Faculty Representation
Timothy Rommen  | John L. Jackson, Jr.


Regional Focus
Caribbean, US, Middle East

-

Research Area
Cultural Geography


Faculty Representation
Timothy Rommen | Eve Troutt Powell | David Amponsah


Regional Focus
Caribbean, North Africa, Africa

-

Research Area
Black Popular Cultures


Faculty Representation
Timothy Rommen | Herman Beavers | Anthea Butler | John L. Jackson, Jr.


Regional Focus
Carribean, US

-

Research Area
Religion


Faculty Representation
Timothy Rommen | Anthea Butler | John L. Jackson, Jr. | Barbara D. Savage | David Amponsah


Regional Focus
Caribbean, US, Middle East, Africa

GENDER, SEXUALITY, AND DIFFERENCE

Emergent scholarship in black feminist studies, black queer studies, and critical race theory has underscored how racial identification, anti-black racisms, homophobia, and transphobia have informed the life experiences of black subjects across the continuum of human sexuality, complicating the often binary treatment of gender and racial categories by Western second wave feminists. 

Contemporary Africana studies scholarship has been at the forefront of conceptual, theoretical and methodological innovation in exploring the ways that black subjectivities, like all subjectivities, are multiple, intersectional, and contextual. 

Research Area
Black Feminist Thought


Faculty Representation
Grace Sanders Johnson | Dorothy E. Roberts


Regional Focus
Caribbean, US

-

Research Area
Black Queer Thought


Faculty Representation
Anthea Butler


Regional Focus
US

-

Research Area
Gender and Sexuality


Faculty Representation
Herman Beavers | Dorothy E. Roberts | Grace Sanders Johnson


Regional Focus
US, Caribbean 

-

Research Area
Black Masculinities


Faculty Representation
Herman Beavers


Regional Focus
US

INEQUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

One of the underlying commonalities among Afro-descendant populations globally has been their quest for civil rights and social justice under historical conditions of racial slavery, apartheid, and colonial regimes.

Movements for reparations, for curbing or eradicating disproportionate state violence, and for dismantling structures of inequality, to give just three examples, persist into the contemporary moment throughout the black world. Scholars of Africana Studies are particularly well suited to engaging with these historical and contemporary research questions. 

Research Area
Critical Race Theory


Faculty Representation
John L. Jackson, Jr. | Dorothy E. Roberts | Michael Hanchard


Regional Focus
US

-

Research Area
Race, Science, and Health


Faculty Representation
Dorothy E. Roberts | Tukufu Zuberi


Regional Focus
US, Africa

-

Research Area
Sociology of Race/Racism


Faculty Representation
Camille Z. CharlesDorothy E. Roberts | Tukufu Zuberi


Regional Focus
US, Africa, South America

-

Research Area
Education


Faculty Representation
Camille Z. Charles


Regional Focus
US

-

Research Area
Economic Inequality


Faculty Representation
Camille Z. Charles | Mary Frances Berry


Regional Focus
US

MEMORY AND HISTORY

Scholars interested in memory and history often utilize critical research methodologies to explore silences in the historiography of Afro-descendant populations. In addition to more conventional historical and archival inquiry, interviews, situated knowledge, and ethno-history serve to expose the chasms between official histories and popular memory.

National-state projects often seek to emphasize national unity at the expense of black memory. Identifying and foregrounding subjects excluded from official historical narratives serves as a counterweight and corrective to official, governmental and elite-based histories.

Research Area
History


Faculty Representation
Heather A. Williams | Mary Frances Berry | Grace Sanders Johnson | Eve Troutt Powell | Barbara D. Savage  | David Amponsah | Anthea Butler | Michael Hanchard


Regional Focus
US, Caribbean, North Africa, Africa, South America

-

Research Area
Oral History


Faculty Representation
Grace Sanders Johnson | Timothy Rommen | David Amponsah | Heather A. Williams


Regional Focus
Caribbean, Africa, US

-

Research Area
Comparative History


Faculty Representation
Michael Hanchard


Regional Focus
South America, Europe, Africa, US

-

Research Area
Intellectual History


Faculty Representation
Barbara D. Savage | Michael Hanchard | Mary Frances Berry


Regional Focus
US, Latin America

SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH METHODS

One of the most powerful perspectives for mapping evidence of social reality and through which to understand social changes has been the careful application of quantitative and qualitative research methods drawn from the social sciences. Such work can be focused, for instance, on the ways that racial statistics can be used to institutionalize inequality or, conversely, provide data for projects promoting social justice.

Scholars working with these tools are often also concerned with how race, gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, and immigrant/citizenship status inform and shape the composition of neighborhoods, universities, or employment prospects. These approaches provide scholars with the ability to develop critical interventions within social statistics and current debates in various parts of the world, and within the social sciences.

Research Area
Qualitative Research Methods


Faculty Representation
Camille Z. Charles | Tukufu Zuberi | Michael Hanchard


Regional Focus
South America, Caribbean, Africa, Europe, US

-

Research Area
Quantitative Research Methods


Faculty Representation
Camille Z. Charles | Tukufu Zuberi


Regional Focus
South America, Caribbean, Africa, Europe, US

-

Research Area
Demography/Migration


Faculty Representation
Camille Z. Charles | Tukufu Zuberi | Michael Hanchard


Regional Focus
South America, Caribbean, Africa, Europe, US

 

Research Areas by Professor

David Amponsah

  • Memory and History
  • Africana Circuitries and Networks
  • Cultural Studies and Anthropolog

Herman Beavers

  • Gender,Sexuality and Difference
  • Cultural Studies and Anthropology
  • Arts and Performance

Mary Frances Berry

  • Inequality and Social Justice
  • Memory and History

Anthea Butler

  • Gender,Sexuality and Difference
  • Cultural Studies and Anthropology
  • Africana Circuitries/Networks
  • Arts and Performance
  • Memory and History

Camille Z. Charles

  • Inequality and Social Justice
  • Social Science Research Methods

Michael Hanchard

  • Africana Circuitries/Networks
  • Inequality and Social Justice
  • Memory and History
  • Social Science Research Methods

John L. Johnson, Jr.

  • Cultural Studies and Anthropology
  • Africana Circuitries/Networks
  • Inequality and Social Justice
  • Arts and Performance

Grace Sanders Johnson

  • Gender,Sexuality and Difference
  • Memory and History
  • Africana Circuitries/Networks

Eve Troutt Powell

  • Cultural Studies and Anthropology
  • Memory and History

Dorothy E. Roberts

  • Gender,Sexuality and Difference
  • Inequality and Social Justice

Timothy Rommen

  • Cultural Studies and Anthropology
  • Arts and Performance
  • Memory and History

Barbara D. Savage

  • Cultural Studies and Anthropology
  • Memory and History
  • Africana Circuitries/Networks

Heather A. Williams

  • Africana Circuitries/Networks
  • Memory and History

Tukufu Zuberi

  • Africana Circuitries/Networks
  • Inequality and Social Justice
  • Social Science Research Methods