Contact Us
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr. PA 19010-2899
Phone: 610-526-5042
Fax: 610-526-7479

Africana Studies

The Africana Studies Program brings a global outlook to the study of Africa and its Diasporas. Drawing on analytical perspectives from anthropology, economics, education, history, literary studies, political science and sociology, the program focuses on peoples of African descent within the context of increasing globalization and dramatic social, economic and political changes.

To discuss your plan of study, ideas for special projects and summer work, and other aspirations, please contact Professor Alice Lesnick.

To particpate, share ideas, resources, announcements with the broader community, please use our online community space on Serendip Studio at :africanastudies or join us on Facebook

Upcoming events

Ben Vinson III
Dean of The George Washington University
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Ben Vinson III

                      "Shades of Blackness: Race and Caste in ·-Mexico''

                                     Monday, September 8, 2014

Tea at 4:15 PM; Talk at 4:30 PM Chase Auditorium

Sponsored by the Department of History and The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program in conjunction with the Distinguished Visitors Program



September 30, 2014
English House Lecture Hall
Bryn Mawr College

Robin Bernstein, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard (Bryn Mawr 1991)

In the mid-twentieth century, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted their famous "doll test" in which they asked African American children whether they preferred black or white dolls. Most children identified white dolls as "nice" and black dolls as "bad"--proof, the Clarks argued, that segregation damaged black children psychologically. These findings figured pivotally in Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court case that outlawed segregation in public schools. Robin Bernstein defamiliarizes the "doll test" by locating it not in the history of Civil Rights but instead in the history of dolls. Bernstein argues that a black child's rejection of a black doll might indeed reveal internalized racism; but it could also constitute a rejection of violently racist practices of play that had, for a century, been coordinated through black dolls. Thus Bernstein offers a new understanding of the Clarks' child-subjects not as passive internalizers of racism instead as agents who resisted inherited traditions of play.



A conference in Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s novel Arrow of God

6-10 October 2014

A Multi-media Conference
convened @ Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr Colleges by
Jesse Weaver Shipley, Iruka Okeke, Zolani Ngwane, Carina Yervasi, Alice Lesnick 

In 1964 Chinua Achebe published his novel Arrow of God. There have been events across the world celebrating this anniversary. 6-10 October 2014 Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr Colleges are convening a conference in recognition of the 50th anniversary of this landmark text. There will be a week-long series of events across the three college campuses featuring participants from a variety of fields in the sciences, humanities, and arts. Guests, students, and faculty will engage in an extended dialogue that begins with the significance of Achebe’s work in a variety of realms and extends to contemporary issues that reverberate through his writing’s influence more broadly. The series of interdisciplinary, eclectic activities across the three colleges include several academic panels, film screenings, arts, pedagogy seminar, writing workshops, and class visits. Several faculty in a variety of disciplines will also be teaching Arrow of God and other texts by visiting artists in the Fall 2014 semester to correspond with this event.  

Some of the conference will explicitly address Achebe and his writing while other segments will use his work as inspiration for extended conversations about arts, scholarship, and science in contemporary Africa and its implications for globalization, spirituality, expressive culture, and a variety of concerns. Tracing continuities and discontinuities across half a century and a global network of places will help to triangulate on issues of moral, political, and cultural transformation at the core of Achebe’s work. Arrow of God is a complex novel about the powerful and the sacred, cultural and religious encounters, colonial rule and moral choice. It shows Achebe’s commitment as a storyteller to tales with nuanced intertwined characters who at once resonate with particular contexts and act universally. His protagonists lead readers gently through multiple, simultaneous levels of interpretation.  While many students of literature read Things Fall Apart, Achebe's other work has received less attention. Achebe himself was deeply concerned with how African writing, modes of storytelling, and forms of language-use informed issues of artistry, pedagogy, race, and inequality around the globe. His concern with myth, memory, and history, with power, and with the processes of telling open-ended stories have inspired our focus on the notion of (ir)reverence. While Achebe’s work is playful and humorous it simultaneously offers profound reflections on spirituality, choice, and possible futures.  

Sponsors-KINSC, CPGC, Hurford Humanities Center, Distinguished Visitors Office, Anthropology, Biology, English, First Year Writing (Haverford); Black Studies, French Studies (Swarthmore); Education (Bryn Mawr)



Recently published is Bryn Mawr's Professor of History and Africana Studies Kalala Ngalamulume's new book,  Colonial Pathologies, Environment and Western Medicine in Sant-Louis-du-Senegal, 1867-1920

Focusing on yellow fever, cholera, and plague epidemics as well as on sanitation in the context of urban growth in Saint-Louis-du-Senegal between 1867 and 1920, this book explores how the French colonial and medical authorities responded to the emergence and re-emergence of deadly epidemic diseases and environmental contamination. Official reactions ranged from blaming the Africans and the tropical climate to the imposition of urban residential segregation and strictly enforced furloughs of civil servants and European troops. Drastic and disruptive sanitary measures led to a conflict between the interests of competing conceptions of public health and those of commerce, civil liberties, and popular culture. This book also examines the effort undertaken by the colonizer to make Senegal a healthy colony and Saint-Louis the healthiest port-city/capital through better hygiene, building codes, vector control, and the construction of waterworks and a sewerage system. The author offers insight into the urban processes and daily life in a colonial city during the formative years of the French empire in West Africa.