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Africana Studies

Name: Amy Lou Brouner

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Area of Studies: Africana Studies and English

I fell into the Africana Studies major by mistake.  After studying abroad in Senegal last fall, I discovered that a number of courses I had previously taken at Hopkins were also part of the major.  Apparently I had always been interested in Africana studies without ever realizing it.  I think that this oversight occurred because of the interdisciplinary nature of the major that incorporates everything from literature to economics.  While this aspect of Africana studies meant that I did not declare it as my major until my second-to-last semester (it is my second major, so don’t worry if you think I didn’t have a major after three years), the interdisciplinary nature of Africana studies is what makes it worthwhile and adaptable to whatever you envision yourself studying. The major requires a language studied through the intermediate level (anything from French to Swahili), three introductory level courses, four courses in an area of concentration, and four 300-level courses outside of the area of concentration. I was able to adapt this to my personal interests in continental Africa as well as American education: I chose African and Diaspora studies as my area of concentration and took classes such as “Madness in Caribbean Literature” as well as a number of courses abroad to complete those requirements; then I took a course on “Race and Education in the United States” and an upper-level course on “Education Politics in Urban America” to pursue my interest in education; the former course filled one of my three introductory courses, and the latter filled an Urban Studies requirement outside of my area of concentration.

Johns Hopkins is a great institution for pursuing Africana studies because of the opportunities it has to both entrench yourself in the city of Baltimore and get as far away from Baltimore as possible.  Baltimore’s unique racial history makes it a valuable location in which to study contemporary urban and racial issues, and there are often opportunities for practical field experience or investigation. It makes course readings much more engaging when they are about the city in which you are living, as for example when we read Brown in Baltimorefor “Education Politics.” On the other hand, Hopkins makes studying abroad very accessible, and Africana Studies is fortunate to be a major in which study abroad is very easy, if not recommended. As I alluded to above, I myself spent an amazing, eye-opening semester in Dakar, Senegal (and for a lower cost than Hopkins tuition).

Me in an African boubou.

Many people ask why I studied abroad in Senegal, and the truth is that I wanted to study in a francophone country, and at the time I was also taking Professor Larson’s “History of Africa before 1800,” so going to French West Africa just seemed like the thing to do.  While my motivations may have been largely superficial, based as they were on my adoration for Professor Larson and my desire to speak the colonial language of French, in the end I had an experience as rich and colorful as the yards of African cloth I brought home with me. Our Office of Study Abroad has information about studying abroad practically anywhere else you could think of that is relevant to Africana studies, and if you cannot fit in a semester abroad, Hopkins leads intersession trips to places like Ghana and the newly added destination of Brazil. While the Africana Studies department at Hopkins provides a great, well-rounded, and flexible major for Africana studies, field work within the city or on another continent makes your education that much more valuable.

As they say in Senegal, “Yendal ak jamm” (pass the day in epace)

 

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Click here to access more information about the Africana Studies Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins ForumsAcademics: The Insider Perspective as well as the Africana Studies question thread.

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Africana Studies

Name: Katie Firestone

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: New York, NY

Major: Africana Studies and International Studies

AN UNEXPECTED MAJOR

For me, majoring in Africana studies happened naturally, almost accidentally—a result of personal and academic curiosity. There is a sense of enormity and mystery that surrounds “Africa the continent,” complete with stereotypes, prejudices, and a tense history. I wanted to uncover these layers and discover what Africa and the African Diaspora (meaning the entire, dispersed community of peoples of African descent all over the world) really is.

DSC00037 While I entered Hopkins with international studies as my intended major, I am a firm believer that college is a time to explore and take classes that you were previously unable to. For this reason I wanted to take philosophy and sociology classes (both of which I have) and learn about new regions and cultures. Africa had always been a place of interest for me; I had dreamed of traveling and studying there. On a more personal note, my great uncle Charlie is from Liberia and my brother and I have fantasized along with Charlie for years about traveling there with him. I chose Africa and race-related classes the first semester of my freshman year in order to explore these interests. Admittedly, I did not come to college thinking I would major in Africana studies.

Before coming to Hopkins, I was not sure what Africana studies or the African Diaspora really was. In high school I did not have many opportunities to take classes related to the African or African-American experience. In choosing my courses freshman year, I found myself drawn to classes that were cross-listed with Africana studies. I ended up taking two – a freshman seminar on Race and Education in the United States and the History of Africa (up to 1830). In addition, I took classes for my international studies major. I really loved the balance of the two from the beginning: international studies requirements provided a general overview while Africana studies was more targeted.

Second semester of my freshman year, I took Introduction to Africana studies and this fall I took History of Race and Empire, both of which are Africana studies classes. While I had declared international studies as my major at the end of my freshman year, I found myself torn. Part of me wanted to change majors and only do Africana studies. In the end, I decided that I did not have to nor want to choose. For international studies, each student is required to have a concentration, which can be a region, language, topic, etc. I knew that Africa would somehow play a part in my concentration, thus allowing for overlap between international studies and Africana studies. This is how I decided to double major.

Like international studies, Africana studies is also completely interdisciplinary. While both are “majors,” they are composed of classes from many departments: economics, history, political science, sociology, and foreign language. I found that my interests are interdisciplinary and so both majors allowed me the opportunity to pursue many of my interests simultaneously.

DSC01062 This past Intersession cemented my interest in Africana studies. I was extremely lucky to be able to travel to Ghana with a group of Hopkins students and staff. Ghana is a country in Western Africa, located on the coast, which has a rich and significant history. Ghana was one of the main West African slave ports during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and for this reason has some of the biggest slave castles, one of which we were able to visit. Ghana is also the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence in 1957. Traveling around Ghana for ten days was extremely rewarding academically. I was able to attend lectures at the University of Ghana and to see in person what I had learned about. In addition, physically being in Africa was an incredible and almost surreal experience. In being there, I was so sure of my decision to study Africa and the African Diaspora.

This spring semester (of my sophomore year), I am continuing to take Africana studies classes including Nubia: An African Kingdom in American Thought and Introduction to Francophone Caribbean Literature (which is actually in French). I am also currently planning where I will study abroad next fall. I have decided on Senegal, a French-speaking West African country, with the hope to improve my French and experience living in Africa. Senegal seems like the ideal place to pursue studying both Africana studies and international studies and I am extremely excited about the opportunity. At Hopkins, I have been able to explore and discover my interests. It is here at Hopkins that I not only learned what Africana studies was but also realized that I wanted to pursue it.

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Click here to access more information about the Africana Studies Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins ForumsAcademics: The Insider Perspective as well as the Africana Studies question thread.

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