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African American Studies

The Discipline and Its Dimensions


Nathaniel Norment, Jr.

African American Studies: The Discipline and Its Dimensions is a comprehensive resource book that recounts the development of the discipline of African American Studies and provides a basic reference source for sixteen areas of knowledge of the discipline: anthropology, art, dance, economics, education, film, history, literature, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, political science, science and technology, sports and religion. African American Studies defines bodies of knowledge, methodologies, philosophies, disciplinary concepts, contents, scope, topics scholars have concerned themselves, as well as the growth, development, and present status of the discipline. African American Studies validates that African American Studies is a unique and significant discipline—one that intersects almost every academic discipline and cultural construct—and confirms that the discipline has a noteworthy history and a challenging future. The various bodies of knowledge, the philosophical framework, methodological procedures, and theoretical underpinnings of the discipline have never been clearly delineated from an African-centered perspective.

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2. African American History


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African American History

Sankofa “Learning from the past ”Symbol of importance of learning from past

Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.

—Carter G. Woodson

The African Antecedent

The process by which Africans across time and space have conceptualized and utilized their collective memories has underlying unities that can inform the method by which scholars in Africana Studies view the subfield of history as it relates to the African experience. The emergence of this distinct method of viewing the African experience is grounded in a historicism that understands the past as living.1 The task of practitioners of the discipline is not only to uncover these methods found throughout the instructions the ancestors have left, but to utilize them as we pursue new research. The exploration of these methods of memory is therefore essential.

Many of the more modern archaeological studies point to Africa as the birthplace of recorded memory. In many of the Nile Valley civilizations, namely Kemet, writing emerged as important medium by which to “remember.” While mdw ntr (hieroglyphics) was not the only way in which the past was preserved in ancient Africa, it served as a prolific example of the importance of history for African people.2 History, or more precisely memory, was connected to more than just a periodic rehearsal of dates...

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