University of Minnesota
African Studies Initiative

African Studies Initiative

African Studies Initiative

The African Studies Initiative (ASI) begins from the premise that the interactions among the various regions of Africa, as well as with the rest of the world, are critical to the scholarly enterprise. ASI engages methodological and theoretical issues common to scholars of literature, culture, and the social sciences globally, to explore themes such as race and ethnicity, urbanization and migration, modernity and modernism, transnationalism and globalization, representation and language.

It is with these complex processes and notions in mind—processes and notions that transcend traditional categories of area, region, and nation-state, but also traditional demarcations of academic fields and disciplines—that ASI approaches African Studies.


African Studies Initiative (ASI) Inaugural Public Symposium

Rethinking African Studies

InFlux, Regis Center for Art East 120 Andersen Library | University of Minnesota

April 7-8, 2016

Co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change

Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change

The African Studies Initiative (ASI), a University of Minnesota Title VI African Studies National Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education, will host an inaugural public symposium on the topic Rethinking African Studies at the University of Minnesota, April 7–8, 2016.  The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) will cosponsor the symposium.

Our intent in this symposium is to deconstruct and to pluralize the idea of “Africa” that subtends both African Studies as such and Africanist scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, as these fields are conceived in the U.S. academy today.
Equally important, we seek to deconstruct and to pluralize the notion of “study” that informs African Studies in the United States:  that is, to consider how we might decolonize the intellectual geography of Africa in the U.S. university by shifting away from constructions of knowledge about Africa, transacted largely through the epistemological eye of the global North, toward more dynamic co-creations of knowledge with African scholars and African scholarship.

Our focus will be on Africa in two dimensions:  time and space.
We ask:  When is “Africa”?  Can we imagine new periodizations of the continent and its diasporas?  Should we do away with these altogether?  Why Africa now?  Do the continent and its diasporas make particular claims on our attention at the present cultural, economic, historical, and political moment?
And we ask:  Where is “Africa”?  Should we understand specific forms of knowledge as “African”?  How does the term “Africa” resonate elsewhere?  To whom is it useful?
To these dimensions we might add a third, no less vital:  language.  Indeed, central to our efforts to reimagine reigning conceptions of Africa is a focus on the perilous yet promising task of translation.

This ASI inaugural public symposium will bring together faculty and students across many disciplines—within and beyond African Studies, the ASI and ICGC communities, and the University of Minnesota and other institutions—to engage transformative work.  We will consider the challenges posed to African Studies by questions of form and context, by the critique of history and of other forms of disciplinary reason, by postcolonial approaches, and by theory from the South.

See the symposium description for details, and watch for a list of speakers. Questions? Contact







Usakos: Photographs beyond Ruins

Regis Center for Art, West Gallery | University of Minnesota

April 5-23, 2016

Organized by the African Studies Initiative

Co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change

Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change


University of Minnesota International African Studies Conference

“Fault Lines: Rethinking Temporal and Disciplinary Traditions in African Studies”

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Campus

April 21-23, 2016

Please visit the conference website at :
Hosted by:

The African History Graduate Student Collaborative (AHGSC)

Sponsored by:

Consortium for the Study of the Premodern World (CSPW, University of Minnesota), University of Minnesota Department of HistoryInterdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC, University of Minnesota), Institute for Advanced Study (IAS, University of Minnesota), The African Studies Initiative (ASI, Title VI – Department of Education, University of Minnesota), University of Minnesota Department of Theatre Arts & DanceThe Department of African American and African Studies (AA&AS, University of Minnesota), University of Minnesota Department of AnthropologyDepartment of Curriculum and Instruction (CEHD, University of Minnesota), University of Minnesota Department of Sociology, and the Program in the History of Medicine (Medical School, University of Minnesota)

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