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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:African Studies in the West Indies
Author:Cobley, AlanISNI
Periodical:African Research and Documentation
Geographic terms:Africa
Subject:African studies
Abstract:This article describes the origins and development of African Studies in the West Indies. It focuses on the highly charged and politicized debates on black consciousness and identity surrounding African Studies in the anglophone Caribbean and Cuba over the past thirty years. From the mid-nineteenth century, the writings of the African diaspora from the Caribbean have played a key role in developing both a scholary understanding and a politicized consciousness of the African continent and its peoples. Issues of black identity, culture and identification with the African 'motherland' were central to these works. Despite this fertile environment, the inauguration of African Studies as a formal academic discipline in the West Indies had to await the era of decolonization. The way was prepared with the establishment of the University College of the West Indies in Jamaica in 1948. When independence came to the West Indies in the 1960s, Caribbean intellectuals pointed to the significance of the African heritage of Caribbean people. But research in African heritage and connections was discouraged by Caribbean governments because this was thought to conflict with efforts to build new national identities. While the battle to develop African Studies was continuing within the education system in the anglophone Caribbean during the 1970s and 1980s, popular sentiment on African issues focused primarily on the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. West Indians were drawn directly into this issue by the international controversy over sanctions, and specially by the question of a cricketing boycott of Africa. It is now widely accepted, both at the academic and the popular level in Caribbean society, that an interest in, and the study of aspects of African culture must be embedded in any credible programme of Caribbean Studies. The article is a revised and extended version of a paper originally published in 'Africa Forum' on H-Africa, 25 February 2001. Notes, ref.