Carnegie Mellon University

African Studies Research Consortium

Edda Fields Black, Coordinator

Since 2007, the African Studies Research Consortium (ASRC) has provided opportunities for scholars and graduate students at Southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia universities who conduct research about Africa and Africans to present works in progress and to network with colleagues. Organized jointly by Edda L. Fields-Black (Associate Professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University) and Robert Maxon (Professor of History at West Virginia University), the ASRC has faculty and graduate students affiliated with several departments at Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, Duquesne University, La Roche College, Susquehanna University, University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University. The Consortium meets once per semester in either Pittsburgh, PA or Morgantown, WV.


Edda L. Fields-Black
                  Dr. Edda Fields-Black is an Associate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Fields-Black is a specialist in early and pre-colonial African history whose research interests extend into the African Diaspora, and has written Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora.

Robert Maxon
                  Dr. Robert Maxon is a Professor of History at West Virginia University with specializations in African, East African and World History. Dr. Maxon has published Kenya’s Independence Constitution: Constitution-Making and the End of Empire, East Africa: An Introductory History, and Britain and Kenya’s Constitutions, 1950-1960.

African Studies Research Consortium Fall 2013 Meeting 

November 9, 2013

9-10am- Welcome and Continental Breakfast
Duquesne University, 608 Student Union Building (parking Forbes Avenue Garage, 8th Floor)

10-10:45 am
Dr. Greg Olikenyi, Duquesne University, Department of Theology
“Image and Imageless: God in African Traditional Religions”
One of the basic elements of African Traditional Religions (ATR) today is the "concept of one supreme being (God)". Through image forming, practitioners of ATR communicate with the supreme being (God) and other invisible beings. Unfortunately, this idea of image forming in ATR has often been misunderstood, thus leading some people - even today - to wrongly view ATR in terms of "Animism". It is the intention of this paper to examine the images of God and their significance in ATR. The outcome of this paper could - among others - be very valuable in interdisciplinary scholarship.

Dr. Mame-Fatou Niang, Associate Professor
Carnegie Mellon University, Department of History
“From Global To Local:
Transatlantic Circulations Of Black Beauty And The Making Of Afro-French Identities”

In January 2012, French beauty giant Elle Magazine unleashed a storm after one of its writers, Nathalie Dolivo, wrote a controversial piece about black fashion and the rise of what she calls the “black-geoisie”. According to Dolivo, figures such as the Obamas are the herald of a new “black fashion power”. Dolivo suggested that America’s first family has finally given the black community a “chic” option other than its usual “streetwear codes,” and that their fashion sense will set the tone for a new “Back renaissance”. The piece was quickly removed from the magazine’s website, and spawned a vehement backlash from Afro-Caribbean groups in France.

The debate around this article and the reaction of Afro-French personalities such as historian Pap Ndiaye brought to light the way in which the formulation of fashion and beauty in Black (-French) terms has become a social and political issue that parallels the process of minority identification currently at work among Blacks in the country. France has produced and continues to produce ethnic identities that are based on images and representations accumulated since the colonial times. At the same time, the French Republic’s color-blind stance denies any identity-claim made on racial grounds.  The preamble to the Constitution proclaims the equality of all citizens regardless of their origin, race, or religion. In 2005, the violent riots that originated in the largely multiethnic suburbs prompted a national state of emergency as well as an official reassessment of this egalitarian model. Increasingly, voices arose within the minority communities, calling for visibility and the recognition of new forms of Frenchness rooted in hybridity and ethnic diversity.

My article seeks to understand how fashion and beauty became political weapons used by Afro-French in order to increase this visibility. It also examines the meaning of beauty in a diasporic perspective, by showing the influence on new definitions of Afro-Frenchness of aesthetics originating from the Caribbean, the Americas and Africa.  An analysis of French beauty and lifestyle magazines will be critical in providing an insight into the space that Blacks are trying to carve out in France’s national narrative 

11:30am -12:15 pm
Dr. Marinus Iwuchukwu, Duquesne University, Department of Theology
"African Theologians in Diaspora: Drawing on the Theology of Inclusive Religious Pluralism to Construct An African Value Oriented Progressive Interreligious Dialogue"

This paper will explore the potential contributions African theologians in Diaspora can bring to the field of interreligious dialogue that is driven by inclusive pluralistic worldview in current postmodern social order. It will examine how postmodernism promotes inclusive religious pluralism toward effective interreligious dialogue and how African theologians whose critical and constructive approach to theology devoid of the extremes of Western/Arab and African cultural worldviews significantly influence interreligious discuss. It will juxtapose the philosophy of “intellectual de-alienation” of Franz Fanon with the “inclusive religious pluralism” theology of Jacques Dupuis.  This intellectual hybridity seeks to claim its theological authenticity as a contemporary theology that is constructively free of Western and Arab monopoly but which is uniquely or progressively African without being anachronistic.

12:15pm – 1:00 pm
Dr. Charles Steinmetz, Visiting Assistant Professor, Duquesne University
“Jubaland: an Expendable Territory”

                  This paper will be an examination of the area known as Jubaland, which before 1925 was the northeastern district of the East Africa Protectorate (Kenya).  The main focus of the paper concerns the negotiations and subsequent transfer of Jubaland to the Italian government in 1924, in lieu of Italy’s decision to join the Allied cause against the German Empire during the First World War. According to the terms of the London Agreement 1915, Italy was promised “equitable compensation,” in the form of African territory, if it joined the Allied powers, and the Allies won the war. Upon conclusion of hostilities, Italy pushed its claims according the terms of the London Agreement. It was expecting, or at least attempting, to gain vast territories in the Horn of Africa, which included British and French Somaliland, as well as some sort of protectorate over Ethiopia, which could then be attached to Italian Somaliland. This would effectively give Italy control over the entire southern coast of the Red Sea and certainly domination over the Horn of Africa.  It was eventually denied these territories and had to settle with the acquisition of Jubaland, formerly part of British East Africa.  Using sources such as British Colonial Office, Foreign Office and War Office records, this paper will show that in the minds of British authorities and colonial officials, Jubaland was certainly an expendable territory. They were more than willing to trade the region away in order to get what they wanted out European power politics. This was especially true considering that during the First World War the British faced a difficult Somali rebellion in the Jubaland region 1916-1918.  The area had always been problematic for colonial authorities and London was more than willing give the troublesome region to Italy as “equitable compensation” for its service. The paper will focus on the negotiation process as well as the official handing-over of the territory.