The Program

Black _monicaAfrican and African American Studies (AAAS) courses are for students interested in a multi- and interdisciplinary approach to the study of the contributions of African and African Diaspora peoples to the history, cultures and societies of the world: Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, Europe, Asia and the Americas.

The program critically examines African and Diaspora experiences, institutions and perspectives with particular focus on the ways in which gender/sex, class, racial capitalism and ideological theories have shaped the lives of Black peoples. AAAS draws on faculty and courses primarily from the departments of History, English, Languages and Literatures, Philosophy, Politics, Religion and Sociology/Anthropology.

The scholarly interests of the faculty include 19th and 20th century African American history; comparative slavery; Caribbean cultures and societies; Civil Rights history; the Black Power Movement; philosophy of race; postcolonial literature; critical race theory; W.E.B. DuBois; criminal justice and race; religions of the Diaspora; African, Afro-Caribbean, and African American literatures and aesthetics; African American women's history and literature; the sociology of race and education; African American philosophy; South, East and West African history; and African politics.

The program also allows for independent and off-campus study. While the program's main strengths are history, literature, politics, religion and languages, students are encouraged to combine AAAS with such disciplines as psychology, economics and the arts, and with programs such as Women's Studies and Peace and Global Studies.

From Earlham, AAAS graduates have gone on to law school, medical school and graduate school at such institutions as the University of Rochester, Columbia, Tufts, Northwestern, Ohio State, Northeastern and Boston universities.

General Education Requirements

The Department offers:

  • Eight courses that fulfill the Writing Intensive Requirement: AAAS 204, 231, 232, 250, 304, 356, 382 and 384;
  • 17 courses that fulfill the Domestic component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement: AAAS 114, 230, 240, 243, 252, 255, 304, 324, 330, 340, 356, 357, 368, 369, 382, 384 and 463;
  • and 15 courses that fulfill the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement:AAAS 204, 231, 232, 240, 340, 345, 352, 359, 362, 363, 364, 376, 377, 378 and 462. The Department also offers Earlham Seminars.

The Major

Students who major in AAAS must complete the following:

  • AAAS 114 Introduction to African and African American Studies
  • AAAS 488 Senior Capstone Experience
  • At least one of the available courses entitled AAAS 240/340 Topics/Advanced Topics in African and African American Studies
  • Four African American core courses:
    • AAAS 230 History of African American Religious Experiences
    • AAAS 304 African American Literature
    • AAAS 368 African American History to Emancipation
    • AAAS 369 African American History since Emancipation
  • At least two of the following African courses, one from each grouping:
    • AAAS 231 History of Africa to 1880 OR
    • AAAS 232 History of Africa since 1880
      AND
    • AAAS 376 West Africa OR
    • AAAS 377 East Africa OR
    • AAAS 378 History of South Africa OR
    • AAAS 352 Politics of Africa.

The Minor

For a Minor in AAAS, students must complete:

    • AAAS 114 Introduction to African and African American Studies
    • AAAS 204 African American Literature
    • AAAS 231 History of Africa to 1880 OR
      AAAS 232 History of Africa since 1880
    • AAAS 368 African American History to Emancipation OR
      AAAS 369 African American History since Emancipation
    • AND one other AAAS course.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AP) = Arts - Applied
  • (A-TH) = Arts - Theoretical/Historical
  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (SI) = Scientific Inquiry
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

*AAAS 114 INTRODUCTION TO AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
(3 credits)

Entry-level course designed to introduce students to the field of African American Studies. Through a multi-disciplinary approach, identifies and examines major issues, topics and questions addressed in scholarly literature. (D-D)

AAAS 115 INTRODUCTION TO CREOLE (1-2 credits)
Focuses on either Haitian or Martinican Creole. Builds basic oral and written communication skills and introduces relevant cultural aspects. On campus, the course is especially intended for students participating in the May Term program in Haiti but is open to all students with an interest in French Caribbean languages and communication. Off campus, the course is required for students participating in the Martinique program.

*AAAS 150 EARLHAM SEMINAR (4 credits)
Offered for first-year students. Topics vary. (ES)

*AAAS 204 AFRICAN LITERATURE (4 credits)
Studies in the development of a modern African Literature from "traditional" through "colonial" and "post-colonial" literatures with some attention to indigenous forms (including oral traditions), assimilationist/protest heritages, negritude and issues of audience. Authors may include Ama Ata Aidoo, Ngugi wa Th'iongo, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as ENG 204. (WI, D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 230 HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE (4 credits)
Survey of central historical events, people, and faith perspectives that have shaped African American (or “Black”) religious experiences in the United States. This course will pay particular attention to 1) the prominent roles that African American women and men of faith have played in the communal survival and wellbeing of Black folk and 2) the role of Black faith as a catalyst for the social, political and cultural transformation of American society. General historical terrain covered in the course includes the Middle Passage and “New World” Slavery; The Great Awakening and later revivals; Emancipation; Reconstruction; migration and urbanization; Jim/Jane Crow; Civil Rights; and Black Nationalism/Black Power. In addition to surveying the religious experiences of African Americans within major Protestant denominations, some attention will be paid to African American Catholicism, Pentecostalism, “sects” and “cults,” Judaism, Caribbean religion(s) in the U.S.,  Islam, and Black humanism. Also listed as REL 230. (D-D) (AY)

*AAAS 231 AFRICAN HISTORY TO 1880 (4 credits)
Introduces students to Africa's long and varied past. Surveys the development of the continent from the Nile Valley civilization to the loss of independence in the 1880s. Topics include Africa as the site of the earliest human development, ancient Egypt's relationship to the rest of Africa, the influence of Islam, African states and empires, the Atlantic slave trade, the impact of European traders and missionaries, and the scramble for Africa in the 1880s. Prerequisite: An Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 231. (WI, D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 232 AFRICAN HISTORY SINCE 1880 (4 credits)
Surveys the African loss of sovereignty and the establishment of European colonial dominance in Africa. Focuses on economic, political and social distortions resulting from foreign domination. Considers the impact of African reactions to these developments. Special attention to the struggle for independence and the re-emergence of independent African states. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 232. (WI, D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 240 TOPICS IN AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES (3 credits)
Studies in African and African American experiences through the analysis of selected topics. Emphasizes the development of information, interpretation and bibliography along with reading, writing and research skills. (D-D or D-I, depending upon topic)

*AAAS 243 RACE, PHILOSOPHY AND POLITICS (4 credits)
Investigates, interprets and criticizes how philosophers have understood the meaning of race as well as its impact on accounts of identity, knowledge and social justice. Studies the political ideologies of liberalism, integration and Black nationalism striving to answer the question: How and to what extent are the varied or competing interests of Black folk reflected in such theories? Also listed as PHIL 243 and POLS 243. (D-D)

*AAAS 250 UNDERSTANDING BOB MARLEY (4 credits)
A research-based seminar in which students encounter the life, thought, legend and legacy of Bob Marley through biography, songs, interviews, essays and film. Investigates Marley's response to the challenges of the historical circumstances that forged his life's music for freedom, equality and social justice. How might we begin to fathom the depth, texture, complexity and influence of a natural mystic's rebel music? Questions, reading materials and course of study emerge from class discussion, independent study and collaborative projects. (WI)

*AAAS 252 AFRICAN AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY (4 credits)
Aims at understanding the circumstances that impinge on African-American subjectivity and relationships in the light of history, literature, sociology and cultural theory. Examines the Black experience by studying episodes and testimony of the American experiment in democracy, paradox of slavery, dilemma as a divided house, problem of the color line, predicament of prejudice as well as racial oppression, and need for reconciliation along with transcendence. (D-D)

*AAAS 255 AFRICAN AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY (4 credits)
Explores the emergent experience of being black in America, considering the nature of justice, thinking about the meaning of identity and questioning freedom. Investigates, interprets and criticizes theories of race and racism, social elevation, civil disobedience, black feminism and other African American cultural themes. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or above. Also listed as PHIL 255. (D-D)

*AAAS 299 RELIGION AND CULTURE OF HIP HOP (4 credits)
Bringing to bear written texts, music, film and other media sources, this course explores the definition and moral significance of Hip Hop as a religious and cultural phenomenon within popular culture. Specific issues explored in this course include the syncretism of religious symbols and sensibilities in Hip Hop; the racial, ethnic, sex-gendered, and class dynamics of Hip Hop; as well as the language and aesthetics of Hip Hop. Also listed as REL 299 and FILM 299. (D-D)

*AAAS 304 AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE (4 credits)
An introduction to the study of literature focusing on the works of Americans of Black African ancestry, with possible attention to works of African Caribbean and African Hispanic Americans. Special attention to major developments in form and themes, major writers and the evolution of an African American literary tradition. Introduction to issues of Black literary theory and criticism. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as ENG 304. (WI, D-D)

*AAAS 324 RACE AND ETHNICITY IN THE U.S. (4 credits)
Examines the pattern of changing social constructions of race and ethnicity in the U.S. and their profound effects on the political, social and economic lives of individuals and the country. Begins to untangle the historical roots of the social constructions of whiteness and race, and examines contemporary issues. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 324. (D-D)

*AAAS 330 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND MORAL VISION (4 credits)
A critical examination of the social functions and theories of contemporary criminal justice in the United States. Special attention to the collateral social consequences of the "prison industrial complex," paramilitary policing and the death penalty. Fosters moral interpretations that contribute to popular movements for positive change. Prerequisites: An Earlham Seminar and an Interpretive Practices course. Also listed as REL 330 and PAGS 331. (D-D) (AY)

*AAAS 340 ADVANCED TOPICS IN AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES
(3 credits)
Studies in African and African American experiences through the analysis of selected topics. Emphasizes the development of information, interpretation and bibliography along with reading, writing and research skills. (D-D or D-I, depending upon topic)

*AAAS 345 NEW VOICES: GERMANS OF COLOR (2 credits)
Introduces students to texts written by Germans of African descent and by authors who have immigrated to the Federal Republic. Texts represent new and often unheard voices in German literature. Students explore issues that arise in a culturally diverse German society and examine how some of these issues are confronted. Also listed as GER 345. Course also offered in English. (D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 352 POLITICS OF AFRICA (3 credits)
Explores topics in sub-Saharan African politics. After a brief overview of pre-colonial political systems and the struggles for independence, examines in depth issues of post-colonial governance, including distribution of political power, military involvement in politics and recent trends in democratization. Covers African societies and economies, domestic policy issues, international relations, and conflict and cooperation on the continent. Prerequisite: POLS 105 or consent of the instructor. Also listed as POLS 352 and INST 352. (D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 356 THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT (4 credits)
Surveys the history of the modern southern Civil Rights Movement. Explores the struggles of the mid 1950s and 1960s when blacks and their white allies directly confronted Jim Crow segregation to gain full citizenship rights and economic opportunity. Focuses on mass movements, with some attention to other freedom struggles, particularly before the emergence of mass activism. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course, or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 356. (WI, D-D) (AY)

*AAAS 357 READINGS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN'S HISTORY (3 credits)
Explores select topics in the history of African American women from the era of antebellum slavery to the present, using such primary sources as slave narratives, autobiographies, documents and historical monographs. Topics include gender relations in the slave community, the gendered nature of slave resistance and rebellion, the politics of economic emancipation, women's activism and the role of women in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Also listed as HIST 357. (D-D) (AY)

*AAAS 359 AFRICAN DEMOCRACY AND DICTATORSHIP (3 credits)
Explores the evolution of African dictatorship and asks whether democracy in sub-Saharan Africa is substantially different than democracy elsewhere in the world. Considers whether African countries' experimentation with different forms of governance — from civilian to military rule, from one-party states to multiparty democracies — has resulted in better governance. Prerequisite: POLS 105 or consent of the instructor. Also listed as POLS 359. (D-I)

*AAAS 362 MUSICS OF THE AFRICAN DIASPORA (3 credits)
An introduction to the musical traditions of Africans who have emigrated to other continents, either by force or by choice, and those of their descendants. Primary focus on the United States; Brazil and France also considered. Explores the historical processes by which African American music was created and the idea of a diaspora as it applies to this body of music. Also listed as MUS 362. (A-TH, D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 363 MUSICS OF AFRICA (3 credits)
An introduction to a few of the different musics produced in Africa today and over the past few decades. Emphasizes music of selected parts of East and West Africa, with some consideration to music from North, South and Central Africa. Develops a sense of the geographical and cultural differences across the continent along with and understanding of such general issues as production, dissemination and reception of music. No particular background in music required. Also listed as MUS 363. (A-TH, D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 364 READINGS IN FRENCH CARIBBEAN AND AFRICAN LITERATURE
(3-4 credits)
Offers an array of fiction, poetry and film by authors and cinematographers from West Africa and the French Antilles. Papers and discussions focus on cultural themes and issues such as tradition and modernity, urban and rural life, and men's and women's rules. Prerequisite: FREN 222, 301, 303 or consent of the instructor. Also listed as FREN 364.(D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 368 AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY TO EMANCIPATION (4 credits)
A survey of African Americans from the era of the Atlantic slave trade to the passage of the 13th Amendment. Topics include the paradox of the co-existence of slavery and freedom, the nature of the slave community, the issue of slave resistance and the role of free African Americans in the abolition movement. Relies on first-hand accounts and secondary materials. Also listed as HIST 368. (D-D) (AY)

*AAAS 369 AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY SINCE EMANCIPATION (4 credits)
Surveys the history of African Americans from the era of Emancipation through the migrations that transformed blacks into a national, urban minority to the political, cultural and economic challenges in the era of conservatism. Topics include the struggle to define race and citizenship after the Civil War, the impact of migrations on black society and national politics, the consequences of the rise of a black industrial working class, campaigns for civil and human rights, and the emergence of the black power movement. Also listed as HIST 369. (D-D) (AY)

*AAAS 376 HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA (3 credits)
Surveys the history of the Sudanic and forest regions of West Africa from c.1000 BCE to independence. Primarily emphasizes internal dynamics and external factors that shaped West Africa's development. Considers the cultural and social diversity of the region, the nature of the Sudanic and forest states, the importance of long-distance trade and Islam, the effects of the Atlantic slave trade, the impact of colonialism on African life, and the struggle for independence. Also listed as HIST 376. (D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 377 EAST AFRICA (4 credits)
Surveys the history of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) from the time of the great migration through independence. Among the issues addressed are the differences between coastal and inland developments, the rise of the Indian Ocean trading network, the emerging interior states, the appearance of coastal trading systems, the early European distribution of coastal societies, the development of plantation economics, the impact of colonialism, the variety in the decolonization movements and the coming of independence. Also listed as HIST 377. (D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 378 HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICA (4 credits)
Surveys the history of southern African society from the earliest times to the post apartheid era. Topics include the nature of early indigenous African societies, the entrenchment of European domination, the subjugation of African chiefdoms, the role of international capital in transforming the economy, African resistance to segregation and apartheid, and dismantling apartheid. Also listed as HIST 378. (D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 382 PHILOSOPHY, RACE AND RACISMS (4 credits)
Explores key moments in the history of western philosophy, disclosing the extent to which this history participates in the production of the concepts of race and racisms. Readings in classical, modern and contemporary discourses. Prerequisites: An Interpretive Practices course and one Philosophy course. Also listed as PHIL 382. (WI, D-D)

*AAAS 384 THEORIZING RACE (4 credits)
A critical study of the historical, cultural and political forces contributing to the concept of race across disciplines. Investigates a wide range of underpinnings and implications of competing theories of racial difference. Prerequisite: An Interpretive Practices course and Sophomore standing or above. Also listed as PHIL 384. (WI, D-D)

AAAS 440 FEMINIST / WOMANIST THEOLOGY (4 credits)
Traces the histories of women in the church and explores the emergence of feminist/womanist theology in the 20th century. Focuses on current feminist/womanist thought and action in today's societies. Also listed as REL 440 and WGSS 440. (AY)

*AAAS 462 FROM NEGRITUDE TO CREOLENESS (4 credits)
Postcolonial issues brought to the forefront by a new and imaginative literature from the French Antilles. Voices obliterated in the past reclaim their history and celebrate their Creole culture and traditions. Also listed as FREN 462. (D-I) (AY)

*AAAS 463 TOPICS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE (4 credits) Topics consider writers or literary movements as well as interdisciplinary or thematic concerns. For example: an exploration of the Slave Narrative and its influence on contemporary Black fiction or a close study of the Harlem Renaissance. Attention to the nonfiction prose of DuBois, Morrison, Lorde Baldwin. Prerequisite: ENG 302. Also listed as ENG 463. (D-D) (AY)

AAAS 481 INTERNSHIPS, FIELD STUDIES AND OTHER FIELD EXPERIENCES
(1-3 credits)

AAAS 482 SPECIAL TOPICS (3 credits)
Selected topics determined by the instructor for upper-level study.

AAAS 483 TEACHING ASSISTANTS (1-3 credits)

AAAS 484 FORD/KNIGHT RESEARCH PROJECT (1-4 credits)
Collaborative research with faculty funded by the Ford/Knight Program.

AAAS 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
Investigation of a specific topic conceived and planned by the student in consultation with a faculty supervisor. Culminates in a comprehensive report prepared in the style of a thesis or research paper.

AAAS 488 SENIOR CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE / RESEARCH SEMINAR (2 credits per semester)
Senior AAAS majors write a research thesis of high quality during the fall semester, then sit for an oral exam based on the completed research thesis during the spring semester. The thesis will focus on a selected topic in African, African American, Caribbean, or other Africa Diaspora life, history and/or culture. The thesis should reflect mastery of the selected subject of inquiry as well as critical thinking, writing and argumentation skills.

May Term Courses

AAAS 343 SENEGAL MAY TERM (3 credits)
By considering Senegalese culture as expressed by multiple languages, art and religion, students build a connection to French-speaking Africa. Prerequisite: Basic French II or higher level of French.

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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