On the state of African Studies at Yale

Despite a recent uptick in the recruitment of students from Africa (my class had 5 students from Kenya alone), Yale has lost a string of Africanist faculty (like this awesome guy) without replacement. The loss of faculty and the associated decline in the volume of research focused on Africa have raised questions about the university’s commitment to the study of the Continent.


Scott Ross explores these questions in a nice piece in the YDN. Check it out here:

The more I learn about African languages at Yale, the more I hear about budgets. That’s because language acquisition is central to how Yale funds   African Studies (and how colleges fund area studies in general). Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965 was drafted to strengthen “uncommonly taught languages” by funding universities that taught them. The federal government deemed these universities “National Resource Centers” for language instruction (NRCs) and provided Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships to students. More than half of Yale’s current M.A. students, including myself, are receiving money from FLAS.

The current Title VI grant ends soon. But Udry’s not sure whether Yale will win another award next year, or if the Council will even apply. He explains that Yale’s small Africanist faculty, along with its lack of teacher training and community outreach services, may hurt the University’s chances for funding. If Yale loses FLAS fellowships for African Studies students, the Council will have to find new ways to attract applicants who may be turned away by Yale’s high costs.

My own thoughts on this are that African Studies at Yale is probably just going through a reorganization following the shift from a traditional area studies focus (with emphasis on the humanities and languages) to a more social science-y approach. It says a lot that Prof. Chris Udry, an economist, is the Chair of the Council on African Studies. For the sake of all involved (including those going on the market later this year), I hope the transition will not take forever.

(Incidentally, I once worked for the YDN as an advert salesman my freshman year. I quit because I wasn’t patient enough to rise through the ranks before I became a staff writer.)

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