African, African American, and Diaspora Studies

African, African American, and Diaspora Studies focuses on the histories, cultures, cultural linkages, and contemporary sociopolitical and economic realities of Africa and the African diasporas in the context of a globalizing world. Scholars in the discipline increasingly rely on the tools and theories of data science to illuminate and interpret historical and contemporary phenomena that have previously been overlooked or inadequately understood. Two AAAD faculty have, for example, created searchable archives of 19th-century Islamic texts from west Africa, revealing patterns of religious thought and literary style among Pulaar speakers during this period. Other faculty have used historical data sets to map post-Civil War Black urban geographies, and to research public reception of D.W. Griffith’s film Birth of a Nation. 

Besides being practitioners and teachers of data science, AAAD scholars also offer students an important critical perspective on the global history of statistical thought. The collection and interpretation of data about Black lives in Africa, the U.S., and around the world has never been a neutral, apolitical enterprise. In our courses, we consider how data has been misused to lend scientific credibility to myths about racial difference, justify colonial takeover of Black homelands, and sell ill-conceived projects of economic development.  Conversely, we explore specific ways data science focusing on Africana issues might be reformed to enhance, rather than misrepresent, conditions in these communities.

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