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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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Part Two: African American Studies: Its Dimensions


| 85 →


African American Studies: Its Dimensions ← 85 | 86 →


The paradigm of traditional disciplines to the African-centered mind is indicative of the puerile means by which knowledge was categorized. In truth the need to categorize knowledge at all is an example of what Marimba Ani calls the “utamawazo” and “utamaroro” at work, the means by which we control the production of information. Each academic discipline asks questions about the human experience. When undertaking the study of African Americans, we must ask relevant questions about their experiences and address issues inherent in the various disciplines that explain their experiences. According to Greg Carr, among the more important questions to consider in any study of the human experience are: (1) “Who are the people being studied? Where did they come from and how did they come to the experience being studied? (2) How do people view themselves, their origins and their world in any given time and place? (3) How do people organize and govern themselves around common goals? How do they make decisions, resolve disputes, recognize authority, interact with others, establish common tastes and styles, etc? (4) How do people use the materials and tools available to them to shape their physical environment? (5) How do people remember what they have done and how do they pass those memories for future generations? and (6) What have people created to express their thoughts and emotions to themselves and others?”1 He...

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