Nowadays, more students seem to be questioning the content of their courses from an independent-minded framework.

Most recently, the Cornell Insider featured a thoughtful article by economics major Kushagra Aniket, which reviews some of the Africana Studies courses and questions how worthy such an approach is to real scholarship.

The enormous diversity within the African diaspora in terms of language, religion, ethnicity and nationality demolishes the argument of shared culture. Within Africa too, great differences are apparent as one travels from Egypt to South Africa. For instance, African Americans have little in common with the people of African countries. Even recent immigrants to the US from Africa face problems and challenges that closer to those experienced by immigrants from other countries.

A glance at the list of courses offered by the Africana Studies Department at Cornell also proves this point. For instance, ASRC 1500 (The Shape of American Culture: An Introduction to Africana Studies), ASRC 3660 (Race, Migration and the American City) and ASRC 3031 (Race and Revolution in the Americas) are taught along with ASRC 2670 (History of Modern Egypt), ASRC 4600 (Politics and Social Change in the Caribbean), ASRC 4672 (Nationalism in the Arab World) and ASRC 4303 (Nationalism and Decolonization in Africa). The department also offers an assortment of language courses in Swahili, Yoruba and Arabic. To be fair, most of these courses are cross-listed with other departments such as History and Government. But the disparate nature of these studies under one department reminds one of the “cabinet of curiosities” that a colonial adventurer would assemble on his return from the Orient. One can easily notice that these courses hardly present a coherent narrative. The only thread that runs through them is that of race which is not only inadequate but also erroneous in some respects. …

Aniket then bravely looks at the only topic that ties the program together.

Race is a social construct that has no technical basis and it is difficult to deal with cross-continent issues on the precarious presumption that a particular racial diaspora exists. This is a relic of the colonial era that has somehow persisted in our times in some areas. …

Africana Studies seeks to provide a unique “African experience” with an Afrocentric perspective. It should now be recognized that it is a poor and naïve strategy to combat Eurocentrism with Afrocentrism. Race has to be addressed at an appropriate level, which cannot be done through the projection of a pan-global sense of commonalities.