Africana studies sees the continuity between past and present and helps unpack that for us. It gives historical depth to contemporary problems.
To truly understand a tumultuous year like 2016, Professor P. Khalil Saucier, Africana studies, doesn't look back five, 10, even 50 years for context. He goes much deeper.
"If there's one thing students of Africana studies know, it's that things always recycle. What seems like a different moment are really old things that have been rehashed over the past four centuries," he says. "2016 is not really all that different from 2013 or 1913. As a discipline, Africana studies sees the continuity between past and present and helps unpack that for us. It gives historical depth to contemporary problems, and we can respond accordingly instead of just reacting to current events."
The inherent interdisciplinary nature of Africana studies, which examines the interrelated histories, politics and cultural issues of the global black African diaspora, appealed to Saucier in his high school and college years as he tried to make sense of the world around him.
"It gave me the tools to form a vocabulary and to see the world differently," he says. "I like how it challenges other disciplines in that it's trying to seek a more radical understanding of the world in which we live, and in turn attempts to create a vastly different world."
Saucier taught for more than a decade in the sociology department at Rhode Island College, and served as director of its Africana studies program. He wrote or edited five books on race and cultural studies during that time. As director of the Africana studies program at Bucknell, Saucier hopes to continue building the prominence of the field at the University as well as nationally and globally.
He also wants students to gain the tools to help them better grasp modern society.
"Far too often people are rooted in rapid cognition in an attempt to streamline their understanding of this world. Africana studies is about deep study. It's a different kind of optic," he says. "The discipline offers a corrective to traditional intellectual reactiveness. It's really a radical reappraisal of this world. I hope when students leave my classroom, that's what they take away. Not so much facts, but a new way of thinking."
Posted Oct. 7, 2016