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Africana Studies

Below are recent Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) projects completed by students studying African Studies at Pomona College.


The Ethnic-State of Gajaaga: Atlantic Slave Trade, Identity, and Violence in West Africa

Ryan Collins ’22; Advisor: Ousmane Traore

This past summer, my colleague and I researched predominant scholars who have played a major role in shaping the narrative of slavery, more specifically how it existed in Africa. By reading and reporting on the works of these scholars, we were able to garner a comprehensive summary of their perspective on slavery within Africa’s borders and how it related to Atlantic slave trading. In order to properly report on their perspectives, my colleague and I were given a detailed list of novels to focus on and gather information from. After reading these works, we completed thorough reports including: the central message/theme of the novel, important quotations and areas of the novel, and an overall summary of the authors academic stance on African slavery. These reports were completed for each of the thirty novels and sent to Professor Traore on a weekly basis to track our progress. At the end of our research, we had compiled an extensive collection of reports to be used in writing the historiography in Professor Traore’s upcoming book. The final goal of this project was to compile detailed information on these scholars works  to be used for our Professor’s book on slavery in Africa. Using this information, Professor Traore will be crafting a historiography for the introduction of his forthcoming novel.

Conjuring Community: Divine Healing through Black and Brown Queer-Diasporic Kitchen Performance and Porch Dialogue

Dray Denson ’20; Advisor: Jon Ivan Gill

Conjuring community is a collaborative research project that will archive black, brown, and indigenous diasporic cooking practices by displaced, migrant, trans and queer bodies of color. These practices that allow for (re)convenings with ancestral practices, healing and ideas/feelings of home. This project looks at how, in spite of being marked as errant by nation-state discourses, queer and trans bodies of color form queer kinship structures through the communal and devotional aspects of food-making, and porch discourses. Essentially, this project is derived from trans-archival research methods, or from the collective archives of history, Black/Africana, food, media, and geography studies; postcolonial theory, and embodied knowledge of queer and diasporic spiritualities. This project is done in a partnership between two Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows, Dray Denson '20 of Pomona College and Arpita Joyce '20 of Bryn Mawr College.


Origins of the Black Studies Department at The Claremont Colleges (1969)

Dray Denson ’20; Advisor: Maryan Soliman

This project focused on the origins of the Black Studies Center at The Claremont Colleges, which, in 1979, evolved into the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies and the Office of Black Student Affairs. Under the supervision of Professor Maryan Soliman [of Scripps College], researchers traced the department’s founding from the formation of the Black Students Union in the early 1960s to the foundation of the Black Studies Center in 1969. Researchers discovered a history punctuated by struggle for tangible, financial provisions and institutional recognition of Black identity. Black students organized amidst threats and bombings. Black students and faculty pushed for an autonomous center, where they could have courses that were relevant to their needs and experiences. The Black Studies Center was the hard-fought culmination of years of organizing, which involved the writing of demands, center proposals, sit-ins, and community-building. The purposes of the Black Studies project were to understand the becomings of the BSC and the departments that descended from it, and to stitch together the histories of Black student and faculty organizing, and Black self-determination within institutions. Researchers recorded oral histories from professors-emeriti, such as Dr. Agnes Jackson. Researchers also used archival materials from Emeritus Professor Sidney Lemelle, the Special Collections library in Honnold-Mudd, Denison Library, and OBSA, and literary publications in the Claremont area.
Funding Provided By: General SURP Fund


Examining Our Knowledge of Africa: Patterns in Scholarly Publications on Africa

Maggie Munts ’16; Mentor: Pierre Englebert; Collaborator: Denis Tull (German Institute for International and Security Affairs)

This research project seeks to identify patterns in the production of knowledge about Africa, focusing on Africanist and political science journals. This project dedicates specific focus to tracking the countries and various topics featured in these publications. In addition, we examine how countries and topics of study vary between Africanist and general political science journals. Ultimately, the goal of this research is to determine whether the inference we make about Africa is affected by case and topic selection. If such is the case, then conclusions about Africa as a whole may only be representative of trends specific to certain regions or countries of the continent.
Funding Provided By: Cion Estate


Ilê Aiyê, the Escola Mãe Hilda, and Afrocentric Pedagogy

Marieh Scales (2014); Additional Collaborator(s): Edmilson Lopes das Neves (Ilê Aiyê); Mentor(s): Bill Calhoun (School for International Training)

Abstract: The focus of my research is to determine the success of community school Escola Mãe Hilda in the Liberdade community in promoting positive identity construction among the majority Afro-descendant student body, and how the geographical location of the school in a majority Afro-descendant community is a source for strength between Liberdade, Ilê Aiyê, and the terreiro Ilê Axé Jitolú. My problem statement is three-pronged, and is as follows (1) How does the Escola Mãe Hilda create curriculum to promote the ethnic identity of students? (2) What connections does the Escola Mãe Hilda have with Ilê Aiyê, Candomblé, and the Liberdade community and how do these ties affect the curriculum? Finally, (3) Does the Afrocentric history inclusion the Escola Mãe Hilda uses correspond to increased levels of self esteem and self-identity construction among the student body? Methods used to gather research were interviews, observations, and participation-observations. Participants included Directors and Coordinators of Ilê Aiyê and the extension projects under the Ilê Aiyê umbrella. The results show that the identity construction within the Escola Mãe Hilda is limited to the History courses that incorporate African history; however, the connection the Escola Mãe Hilda has to Ilê Aiyê, the Terreiro Ilê Axé Jitolú and Band’ Erê, a project under the Ilê Aiyê umbrella, supplements the opportunities for identity construction for the entire Liberdade community in a unique fashion.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College Study Abroad Office; School for International Training