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Question Two: What Is/Should Be the Relationship between Black Studies, Critical Race Studies, Diaspora Studies, African American Studies, Afro-Latino/a Studies, and Africana Women’s Studies?

Inclusion of the multiple voices of Blackness has been an issue  since the establishment of Black Studies because some schol­ars  argue that divisions within the Black community  such as gen­der, ethnicity, class, and sexuality have comp­li­cat­ed the di­rec­tion of Black Studies, and separate programs that ad­dress these con­cerns represent a “disconnect” within the field. Question Two pro­vides the op­por­tu­ni­ty to define and redefine the field and the ways in which it can, should, or does incorporate diverse foci. Ed­mund T. Gor­don, Dorothy Randall Tsu­ruta, and James B. Stewart focused their pres­en­ta­tions pri­marily on in­ter­pre­­ta­tions of the various studies pro­grams identified in the ques­tion. These inter­pre­tations and the fo­cus on in­ter­sec­tionality with­in the field spark­ed a vig­o­rous dis­cus­sion as mean­ings were de­bated. The di­verse ad­min­is­tra­tive struc­tures, demo­graph­ics, and ideo­log­i­cal points of view lim­ited the de­vel­op­ment of con­sen­sus about the re­la­tionship be­tween Black Studies and part­ner­ships with other in­ter­­dis­ci­plinary ap­proach­es.

Although intense discussions regarding what pro­grams might be in­clud­ed and operate within the range of Black Studies seemed to rep­re­sent dis­cord, participants acknowl­edged that each de­part­ment should as­sess the specific costs and benefits of partner­ship or in­cor­po­ra­tion. Some felt that the dif­fer­ent pro­grams were func­tion­ally sy­non­y­mous with, connected to, and articulated with­in Black Studies. Ac­cord­ing to Bev­er­ly Guy-Shef­tall, “Af­ri­ca­na Woman’s Stud­ies is doing Black Studies. There is not a dis­con­nect.” There was much dis­cus­sion about which programs might op­e­rate within a Black Stud­ies con­text. Stew­art re­mind­ed discus­sants “there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween Black Studies and studying Black peo­ple.” He en­cour­aged Black Stud­ies scholars to define and main­tain the identity of their de­part­ments.

As the discussion progressed, the discussants focused primarily on dis­tinc­tions be­tween Black Feminist Studies and Africana Wo­men’s Stud­ies. Dur­ing this discussion, Crenshaw offered an analysis analo­gous to Stew­art’s comment on Black Studies. “There’s a dif­ference be­tween study­ing Black women or having Black women in the de­part­ment and Black Women’s Studies. One is simply a de­scrip­tive, fac­tu­al type of study. The other one is framing that study with an anal­y­sis of power.” Karenga posed a salient group of ques­tions that point­ed the panelists towards, perhaps, the larger issues the field faces in the academy: “How do we maintain the integrity of the dis­ci­pline? What are the fun­da­mental documents that de­fine the study? What is the primary voice? Who are the primary speak­ers in the dis­ci­pline?” As theorists begin to answer these ques­tions, they may begin to clarify the identity of Black Studies programs, po­si­tion­ing them to establish the terms of re­la­tionships with other de­part­ments.


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