African and African American Studies

The Department of African and African American Studies offers a graduate degree in African and African American Studies. The program offers rigorous interdisciplinary training in the humanities and the social sciences, with a focus in a disciplinary field, leading to the PhD.

Advising

In their first year, students are advised by the director of graduate studies (DGS), who serves as their mentor until they choose an advisor, generally before the beginning of their second year. After consulting with the DGS, a student may change advisors. Students are encouraged to discuss their interests outside of the primary field with faculty from other departments. This process enables students to develop relationships with various faculty members from whom the student will ultimately select a dissertation committee.

Academic Residence

A minimum of two years of full-time study (fourteen four-credit courses or equivalent) is required.

Program of Study

Students must take a combination of fourteen courses of which seven must be courses in a primary field. The distribution of courses in the first three years of study is as follows:

First Year

African and African American Studies 301/302

This required yearlong course is co-taught by the faculty of the program.  The first term  aims to introduce students to faculty in the department and their research around central topics and themes and major theories and debates in African and African American studies. The second term focuses on social science.  research methods, exploring issues of race in Africa and the Diaspora There are two required final presentations to the faculty at the end of each term, one on a humanities topic, the other on a social science topic.

In addition, students must ordinarily take at least six other courses of which at least two must be in the Department of African and African American Studies and two in the primary field.

Save under exceptional circumstances, the Department of African and African American Studies does not give credit toward the PhD for courses from other universities and under no circumstances would the Department give credit for more than two courses.

Second Year

Students must ordinarily take at least six courses in their second year.

Students will ordinarily be required to take all of the following courses or their equivalents by the end of their second year:

  • One graduate seminar in African or African American History
  • One graduate seminar in African and African American Humanities
  • Graduate Seminars AAAS 401 and AAAS 402 (These courses focus on major theories and philosophical perspectives on the study of Africa and the Americas.  In alternating years, these courses may be offered during the first year of the graduate program).
  • During their second year, students must produce a paper of publishable quality. This must be done no later than the second term of their 2nd year. This can be done in a graduate seminar (like AAAS 401 or 402) or in an independent tutorial through AAAS 391 (Directed Writing). Students will not be allowed to take their oral general examination unless they satisfactorily complete a research paper.
  • By the end of the second year, the total number of courses taken in African and African American Studies and the primary field should be fourteen, including at least seven in the primary field. In particular, students should take all courses required for an AM in their primary field.

Third Year

Students must have completed all coursework and language requirements prior to their oral exams for their admission to candidacy.

By the end of the fall term of this year students must have completed the oral exam described below.

Master of Arts (AM)

The department does not admit candidates for a terminal AM degree, but students who have met all the course requirements for the degree may petition to be awarded an AM in African and African American Studies. (Students may also find that they can meet the requirements for the AM in their primary field. Students should consult with the DGS in their primary field if they wish to pursue this option.)

Other Requirements:

Teaching

  • An important element of graduate education in the program is the experience of working as a teaching fellow in courses in African or African American Studies. The department encourages students to seek teaching opportunities in their primary fields. The graduate committee must verify that a student has had sufficient preparation in teaching before voting the degree.
  •  Students are required to teach at least three courses during their third and fourth year of graduate school. Students ordinarily teach at least two courses in African and African American studies and one in their primary field. If designated as part of the student’s financial package, students are expected to teach in their third and fourth years at the rate of 2/5 per term. The department will assist the student in securing teaching positions. Priority for teaching fellow positions is given to students in their third and fourth years of graduate study.

Languages

The student’s advisor will identify the language requirements appropriate for the student’s research in the primary field. In general, these requirements reflect the language requirements of the graduate program in their primary field. However, the DGS and the student’s primary advisor may propose modifications of these requirements if, in their judgment, a different language is more suitable. The student’s orals committee is responsible for determining whether the student has met an appropriate language requirement before proposing a candidate to the graduate committee for admission to the doctorate. Students focusing on African Studies are required, in addition to a major European language, to take at least one African language to the level at which they reach proficiency. Students focusing on African American Studies are required to take one major European language to the level at which they reach proficiency.

Grade Requirements

Students must maintain a grade average of B+ or better in each year of graduate work. At no time may a student register for a term if he or she has more than one incomplete. Where the primary field requires either that all courses be passed at or above a certain grade or that the student’s average grade be higher than B+, the student will be required to meet that requirement for courses in the primary field.

No more than one incomplete may be carried forward at any time by a graduate student in African and African American Studies. It must be made up no later than six weeks after the start of the next term. In applying for an incomplete, students must have signed permission from the instructor and the director of graduate studies, or the course in question may not count toward the program requirements. If students do not complete work by the deadline, the course will not count toward the program requirements, unless there are documented extenuating circumstances.

Admission to Candidacy

Oral Examination

Once students have completed their coursework, they begin to prepare for their oral exam in their primary field. For this purpose they require a committee, consisting of their major advisor and at least two others, at least one of whom should be a member of the discipline of the primary field. This committee, the student’s orals committee, meets with the student once his or her coursework is complete, and defines a bibliography and a set of topics on which the student will be examined orally in the first term of the third year. Once the student has passed the oral exam, he or she prepares a written prospectus.

Prospectus

The prospectus is due at the latest by the end of the first term of the fourth year of residence. The student must discuss the prospectus with each member of the dissertation committee and then have a final oral exam on that prospectus: If the committee accepts the prospectus at the exam, the student is admitted to candidacy and begins research for the dissertation.

NOTE: Along with AAAS, many departments and independent groups organize dissertation colloquia for students in their fourth, fifth, and sixth years, at which they may present and discuss their research.

Dissertation

During the period that a student is working on the dissertation, the student will have a primary advisor and a dissertation committee. Each term the student will consult with and report to the dissertation committee, which will in turn report to the committee on graduate studies as to the progress toward completion of the dissertation. While the student’s principal advisor will ordinarily become the primary advisor and the prospectus committee will ordinarily become the dissertation committee, a student, in consultation with the DGS, may choose other faculty members. The dissertation committee must consist of a primary advisor and at least two others, at least one of whom must be a member of the discipline of the primary field. The primary advisor is the chair of the dissertation committee and must be a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, at least one other member of the dissertation committee must be a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Upon approval of the dissertation by the dissertation committee, the department, student, and the dissertation committee will agree upon a date for the dissertation defense. Completion of the dissertation is ordinarily expected by the end of the sixth year.

The dissertation defense is an oral examination open to any member of the university at which the dissertation committee leads in questioning the candidate on his or her work. Upon completion of the oral examination, the members of the graduate committee will consult with the dissertation committee and vote as to whether the candidate should be recommended for the PhD degree in African and African American Studies and whether the candidate passed with distinction.

Satisfactory Progress

The faculty monitors each student’s progress year by year. During the period between admission to candidacy and submission of the dissertation, the dissertation committee is asked whether the candidate is making satisfactory progress and has to certify in writing when the candidate has completed two draft chapters.

Summary of Requirements

  • Fourteen courses in total, including:
    • African and African American Studies 301 and 302
    • African and African American Studies 401 and 402
    • One graduate seminar in African or African American History
    • One graduate seminar in African and African American Humanities
    • Seven primary field courses
  • All courses required for an AM in the primary field
  • Completion of one research paper of publishable quality (may be completed through AAAS 391).
  • Language requirements as specified
  • B+ average at the end of each year (and any other requirements of the primary field).
  • No more than one incomplete outstanding at any given time
  • Oral exam for admission to candidacy
  • Teaching experience
  • Prospectus exam
  • Dissertation completion
  • Dissertation defense

 

CONTACT INFO

Ayanna Hines
Graduate and Undergraduate Program Officer
aehines@fas.harvard.edu
617-384-7767