Meet Melina Pappademos, Head of the Africana Studies Institute

Africana Studies Institute
Ph.D.: New York University
Office Location: Walter Childs Wood Hall

What would you say are the Africana Studies Institute’s areas of strength in your field?
The Africana Studies Institute is particularly rich in theories and cases of intersectionality and the political sphere, micro-aggressions, nineteenth-century literature, and diaspora experiences of the Caribbean.

What interests undergraduate and graduate students in studying Africana Studies?
Africana studies is validating for many students. It also is increasingly understood as interdisciplinary and necessary field of scholarly inquiry to master in order that they continue their career path and professionalization whether they seek employment following graduation or choose to enter graduate/professional school. For example, many students attest to the importance to their careers of cultural competencies.

What courses are particularly popular in Africana Studies, and why?
Hip-hop, History of the Caribbean, Black Politics, and African American Literature are especially popular. These courses among others resonate with students because they contribute positively to their world view; they learn about human experiences in political, cultural, and economic spheres; and they develop an expanded understanding of what things are possible as they move into adulthood.

What types of jobs do students pursue after attaining an Africana Studies degree?

Africana Studies students have worked in museums, attended law school, gone into social work and social justice activism, earned graduate degrees in writing, and become teachers, among many other fields.

Have there been recent changes to the Africana Studies Institute that have strengthened the Institute?
On our Advisory Board are newly-hired joint appointees Assistant Professor of History and Africana Studies Dexter Gabriel and Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies David Embrick. We are in the planning stage of a robust program for attracting majors/minors, mentoring, faculty support, grant writing, and building institutional structures.

What do you see as upcoming challenges or opportunities for the Institute?
The Institute’s faculty members are committed to student mentoring and curricular review in order to meet student needs. Our faculty are concerned consistently with mentoring students, curricular review, and expansion of the program.

Are there any common misconceptions about Africana Studies?
One of the most enduring misconceptions is that the explanatory significance of Africana Studies is limited to black world experiences. In fact, the themes and theories of Africana studies strive to and do plumb the heights and depths of human experiences across continents, nations, and societies.

Where do you see the field of Africana Studies going in the next 10 years?
The field will shift from a primary concern with the Atlantic World and the Transatlantic Slave Trade to study of the intersection of black experiences and technology, medicine, and environment. Of significance as well is a rising interest in the heterogeneity of black experiences and their impact on societies in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, as well as racial politics within African societies.

What first interested you in Africana Studies?
I became first interested in Africana Studies when I realized that the experiences of African-descended people could only be fully explored if the boundaries of nation and the national histories that seek to explain them were themselves questioned. Indeed, black consciousness intersects with and is informed by myriad facets of human life including ethnicity, sexuality, economics, and gender consciousness. Only by fleshing out these relationships from a scholarly perspective can we earnestly and honestly study people of African descent.

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