African Diaspora course offers a fresh perspective
August Pelliccio – Special to the Southern News
Major Issues in the African Diaspora is a featured new course in the history department. Taught by Dr. Siobhan Carter-David, the course is a refreshed and modernized version of a HIS 599 course offered years ago.
Archived course catalogs, that can be found on SCSU’s graduate program website show that the last time a course was taught about the African Diaspora was in the 2014-2015 catalog year. Carter-David, who taught both that class and this new one, says that the focus of the course and the course materials are very much updated.
The course is listed again as HIS 599, which is a “special topics” course number, whose specific course topics are subject to change. Carter-David referred to this classification as a “temporary course.”
Carter-David says the students need an understanding of “Diaspora” within an African context.
In his 1998 article entitled “Defining and Studying Modern African Disapora,” Colin Palmer of the American Historical Association referred to the multiple streams of diaspora as the migration of a particular people to several places globally; in this case, the Africans.
“As a field of study,” Palmer wrote, “the African diaspora has gathered momentum in recent times.”
Explaining the importance of the course material, Carter-David said, “Millions of Africans were stolen from the continent and distributed to places around the world through the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”
According to the course syllabus, a lot of reading is required to relay this material to the students. There are 12 books listed as required materials, one of which needs to be read every week by students taking the class.
Of these 12, “three of the books were published since the last time an African diaspora class was taught,” said Carter-David.
Because of that, the new course covers several concepts that Carter-David has not taught before. The persecution of African religions and the ways that Europe “under-developed” Africa are new to the course, as are the Haitian revolution, and the concept of Colonial Capitalism. Carter-David said also that in the new course, she is, for the first time, teaching about the African migration experience in the 21st century.
The course offered in 2014-2015 was simply called, “History and Culture of the African Diaspora.” The reason the new course has evolved so much from its earlier predecessor is simple, according to Carter-David.
“People continue to publish new material, and the course is pulling from the most recent literature,” she said.
One of the books listed in the course materials, “Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica,” was only just published in 2017. The resources available in the field are ever changing.
Carter-David explained her love for the subject and for her students, speaking excitedly of her plans for the last day of class, a salon on recent issues in the African Diaspora. She said that assistant teachers in the history department only get to teach a graduate course every five or six semesters at Southern. Carter-David chose to teach a diaspora class twice in a row.
“This is the best way that I can serve the students, and still do what I love,” Carter-David said.
Photo Courtesy: August Pelliccio