Greetings from the Director

A couple of students posing with the director of the department
Donuts with the Director 2019

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

--Assata Shakur, from Assata: An Autobiography and refrain of the Black Lives Matter movement

I am delighted to welcome you to the webpage for and to The Institute for African American Studies. The IAAS is the unit at The University of Georgia that examines all dimensions of the African diaspora in the United States. We are an interdisciplinary faculty, with scholars from English Language and Literature, Sociology, Theater and Film Studies, History, and Religion, among others. These diverse approaches offer our majors and minors and our certificate students, both undergraduate and graduate, multiple entry points into the study of African American life. We welcome all to our program, courses, and ongoing events.

African peoples came to the New World, as Historian of Religions Charles H. Long puts it, as an involuntary presence, a group of people who did not choose to enter the New World. The New World was, to those who came, a place of freedom. As Toni Morrison, in Playing in the Dark, and Orlando Patterson, in the first volume of his work on freedom, Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, have argued, that freedom was constructed as a value, as a shared vision of life, through its contrast to the bondage of others. In our various ways, we, in the Institute, explore the demand for freedom by enslaved Africans and the social, artistic, political, and other forms that African diaspora peoples constructed and continue to construct in their desire to be and to live free.

We invite you to explore our website in order to come to know us, to see what courses are being offered and what events we are hosting or sponsoring, and to read about the activities of our faculty.  We are small but mighty. We also invite you to explore links like the Civil Rights Digital Library and our student-run journal Mandala. Our major and minor, which involve engaged learning in many forms, are ones that are complementary to many other majors, so we invite you to explore our offerings. We also invite you to visit us in Park Hall, and I invite you to visit me in either the Director’s office in Park Hall or Peabody Hall, in my office in the Religion Department. In Park, we have a small lounge area boasting a library, computers, and free printing that our undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to use.

African American Studies is a relatively young discipline, with programs established in the 1960’s and 1970’s, in a nexus of democratic social movements and concerns, including the Civil Rights Movement, and from local emergent community actions. These programs also emerged as a new kind of university student—racialized students and veterans, for example—entered the university systems in larger numbers, calling for programs that studied their questions. Interdisciplinary programs, like African American Studies, address these larger questions that demand more than one disciplinary approach to generate creative answers and strategies. The field itself, as Mark Christian recognizes in “Black Studies in the 21st Century,” is diverse, and, addressing new issues, like globalization, is changing all the time, but that diversity is a cause for celebration and a sign of energetic engagement. We welcome and encourage interdisciplinary collaborations, and all are welcome. Come celebrate and talk with us, in the Institute for African American Studies.