Dalhousie students interested in exploring the experiences of Black Canadians and the global African diaspora from a historical and contemporary perspective will soon have just the program they’re looking for.
This fall, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) is launching an interdisciplinary minor in Black and African Diaspora Studies.
While the minor will be a natural fit for students in disciplines such as History, Sociology and International Development Studies, it is also open to undergraduates in Science, Commerce, Management, Computer Science and Informatics.
A deeper understanding
Program co-ordinator Afua Cooper says the minor — in development for a few years — will give students a deeper understanding of the long and diverse history of Black Canadians and their contributions to the country.
"The Black presence in this country is not just something that happened after 1945 as many people think," says Dr. Cooper, who is the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dal. "I want learners to have a sense that this is a community with a long history here."
The program is built around a core course on the history, culture and sociology of Black Canada developed by Dr. Cooper specifically for the minor. That course will introduce students to some of the history of Black groups and individuals in Canada and connect those experiences to key issues facing those communities today such as racism, poverty and injustice. It will emphasize critical thinking skills — rooted in race and Black feminist theory — to examine the deeper meaning of Blackness and the concept of race, building awareness of how sex, gender, class and other identities impact individuals of African descent.
In addition to the core course, students are required to take one of two other key courses — “Philosophy and the Black Experience” or “The Idea of Race in Philosophy, Literature and Art” — and 12 credit hours from a list of approved electives.
As its name implies, the minor will also explore the rich history and culture of the African diaspora, which refers to those communities around the globe that emerged out of the forced and voluntary movement over time of peoples of African ancestry.
"At Dalhousie, we have the expertise for both components of this program," says Dr. Cooper, noting particular strengths in history, political science, English and French.
Electives covering everything from the literature of the Caribbean to spirituality and other cultural forms will allow students to draw those broader connections. The bulk of courses are already on the books, but more will be added in the future. For instance, Dr. Cooper notes a new course on Black music in the African diaspora is being developed by Fountain School of Performing Arts Music Professor Steven Baur should be offered starting in 2017-18.
Dr. Cooper says she has plans to develop other courses specifically for the program as it evolves in the years ahead and hopes to offer an online component as well at some point.
“It’s my intention to see this evolve into a major,” she says. “It’s a good thing for Dalhousie.”
More info: Black and African Diaspora Studies (minor)
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