Clemson University’s Pan African Studies program is entering a new era under the name of Global Black Studies. The change is a reflection of the program’s increasing worldwide focus under new program director L. Kaifa Roland, associate professor of anthropology.
Pan African Studies is an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts program in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. The shift to Global Black Studies was approved by the Board of Trustees in Spring 2022 and goes into effect in Fall 2022.
The renaming of the program was a high priority for Roland, who took the reins of Pan African Studies in Fall 2021. She points to three reasons for the shift, starting with the message it sends to employers.
“It informs them that the applicant’s education has a global span focused on peoples around the world who have been racialized as black,” she explained. “Second, whereas Black Studies and African American Studies often emphasize black experiences in the United States—or could be imagined by prospective employers in that way—the global preface clarifies that while the United States is likely one area of study, that so might be Brazil, the UK, South Africa, Haiti or more.”
The final reason is to accurately center the program on issues pertaining to Black people, beyond the geographic place of Africa.
“The reason studying about Black histories, artistry, religions, geographical situatedness and other forms of thought is important is because whether located in Africa, Europe or the Americas, peoples of African descent have been racialized as ‘black’ from the moment of colonial contact,” Roland said. “Blackness, like whiteness, is a construct—but we have much to learn about de-constructing power and privilege by attending to the conditions of a world of Black people.”
Global Black Studies is one of three interdisciplinary majors along with women’s leadership and world cinema in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. The Pan African Studies major was first established in 2015. Majors in the program are taught to ask deep questions about the social, economic, political and familial contributions Black people have made to the world and to identify connections among Black people in diverse cultures. Understanding all parts of the world, including in-depth knowledge of different cultures, religions and backgrounds gives students breadth, increases their empathy and gives them a competitive edge. To that end, Roland is centering study abroad as a priority with the advent of the name change.
Learning and research across the boundaries of traditional disciplines are a priority and passion for CAAH Dean Nicholas Vazsonyi.
“Exploring emerging areas of knowledge and making connections between established disciplines is a strength of our College, and something I would like to exploit to the fullest during my time as Dean,” Vazsonyi said.
“This name change has been a long time coming and several individuals and groups are responsible for ushering us to this point,” Roland said. “I am especially grateful to the steering committee, as well as my predecessors in the director position: Dr. William McCoy and Dr. Abel Bartley.”
She added, “The Global Black Studies Program looks forward to launching our new name through a series of events and activities beginning this Fall, so we invite everyone to keep their eyes open.”
Established in 1996, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities celebrates a unique combination of disciplines—Architecture; Art; City Planning; Construction Science and Management; English; History; Languages; Performing Arts; Philosophy; Religion; Real Estate Development and interdisciplinary studies—that enable Clemson University students to imagine, create and connect. CAAH strives to unite the pursuit of knowledge with practical application of that knowledge to build a better and more beautiful world.
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