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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 38, Issue 3, 2015

Commemorative Special Edition

Issue cover
Commemorative Special Edition

Part II: Ufahamu: A Legacy

Competing Methods for Teaching and Researching Africa: Interdisciplinarity and the Field of African Studies

African Studies has evolved as an academic initiative dealing with research and scholarship on the cultures and societies of Africa. Many academic programs focusing on African Studies emerged in the 1960s on the heels of the first wave of African independence movements. Over time, African Studies has expanded to include a wide range of approaches to various disciplines, including history, anthropology, political science, sociology, economics, linguistics, religion and law, among others. Much debate has surrounded the questions of whether African Studies is interdisciplinary in nature or whether it should be considered an academic field in itself, and whether to adopt a Pan-African approach to the discipline to include North Africa in addition to Sub-Saharan cases, as North Africa often is studied through the lens of Islam. This article examines the existing competing methods for teaching and researching Africa and the development and challenges facing African Studies today. This article analyzes the motivations and driving factors that have shaped the emergence of African Studies. What reasons are there for a shift from an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Africa? Has opposition to the creation of a regional academic field of study dealing with Africa indicated underlying racial and political tensions within academia? The term area studies, under which African Studies is often categorized, generally refers to the study of a particular group by an outside “other.” Does this imply a notion that the study of Africa by outside scholars is a form of cultural imperialism?

Part III: Revisited Pieces: Ufahamu in African and African Diaspora Studies

“Every Slight Movement of the People . . . is Everything”: Sondra Hale and Sudanese Art

This essay traces the intertwined topics of collaboration and multisited ethnography in the writings of anthropologist Sondra Hale on Sudanese artists and art. Hale’s trajectories and movements in and out of Sudan traverse parallel, sometimes overlapping tracks with the artists she studied, championed, and curated. Studying Sudan and its artists may have begun in Khartoum during Hale’s first three-year period there from 1961 to 1964; however, this essay analyzes Hale’s subsequent writings based on the places where she encountered artists, residing abroad and in exile, in Cairo, Asmara, Addis Ababa, Oxford, the Hales’ Los Angeles home, as well as in American venues for meetings of the Sudan Studies Association.