Introduction by Oge Ibida ’21
In 2013, Davidson College established and institutionalized the Africana Studies Department. The department builds and expands upon a multigenerational vision that predates many of the current Africana faculty and students. “The Africana Studies Department is indebted to the movement of the ‘Black Studies’ 1960s and 1970s and continues its legacy in many ways while also striking out in new directions that reflect the realities of the 21st century and the evolution of the field over the last 40 years along with a greater awareness of globalization” (Davidson, n.d.). These are the words found on Davidson’s website for the Africana Studies Department to represent the mission of the department. As I further examine the meaning of these words, my project aims to explore the ways in which photographs capture the vision and aesthetics of the Africana Studies Department. In doing so, my project is in conversation with Derrais Carter’s (2018) scholarship on the intersection of Black life and Black Studies. Using his seminal work as a point of departure, I interrogate the conditions that facilitate and stall the growth of Africana Studies on campus. To consider the imaginations of Africana, we are required to ask: To what extent does the photographic archive continue the legacy of the Black Studies Movement? I argue that the photographs of Africana Studies are a symbol of asserting Black pride and community in a predominately white and historically male private institution. The following photographs indicate the distinctness of the department and disrupt the notion that Africana is an illegitimate field of study.
Methodology by Oge Ibida ’21
My photographic archive draws from a compilation of photographs that I gathered from core and affiliate professors of the department. I chose eight photographs that chronicle the history of Africana Studies and capture the visions of the department by students and faculty alike. The photographs donated by the faculty provide a lens for understanding their visions of Africana Studies. The lack of photographs and coverage of Africana faculty in the Davidson photo archives was a limitation to my project. For example, the yearbook only provides a portrait of faculty, which speaks little to their individual and collective imaginations of the department. To combat this limitation, I utilize multiple collections of photographs—i.e., students, faculty, induction ceremonies, and meal gatherings—to document and triangulate the aesthetics of Africana. Moreover, my project is, in itself, a visual representation of Africana Studies that traces the legacy of the department.
The scarcity of documented memories in Africana Studies also engenders a question of relevance. What does it mean for certain moments to be photographed? As a means to answer this question, my perspectives as an Africana major are essential. I recognize that my analysis is shaped by my positionality as a student when scrutinizing these photographs. This project illustrates a wide range of Africana, to think about what it means for this picture to embody the aesthetics of Africana.
My perception of “Black Studies” is drawn from Derrais Carter’s (2018) “Black Study” which delves into the critical interventions of the discipline within and beyond the walls of academia. Carter references Darlene Clark Hines’ (20XX) five themes and approaches to performing a ‘Black studies thought’ : (1) intersectionality, (2) nonlinear thinking, (3) diasporic perspectives and comparative analyses, (4) oppression and resistance, (5) solidarity. Ultimately, I will leverage these themes in understanding and framing the aesthetics of the Africana Studies Department. The photographic archive below reflects the power of the department in creating ways of life grounded in black values.