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Graduate studies, Africana Studies and Research Center


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Ph.D. in Africana Studies

The Graduate Field of Africana Studies at Cornell University established the first Ph.D. program in Africana Studies in New York State in Fall 2013. The Africana Studies Ph.D. program is a small and high quality program designed to expand knowledge production about peoples of African descent and to train future generations of scholars who will deepen and refine the field. An interdisciplinary field of study, Africana Studies embraces the study of people of African ancestry on the African continent and in the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the broader diaspora. Toward that end, it is at the forefront of scholarship that both transcends disciplinary fields and brings more powerful explanatory value to issues of race, ethnicity, class,gender, and sexuality. Accordingly, since its inception, Africana Studies has profoundly shaped research and discourse in the humanities and social sciences by altering traditional epistemologies and methodologies. Africana Studies has historically resisted the confines of national borders in its analyses. 


Students in the Ph.D. program in Africana Studies will be required to have at least three committee members as required by the Graduate School's Code of Legislation, i.e. the chair of the Special Committee and two minor committee members. The degree program will consist of two thematic tracks—Concentration I is Historical,Political, and Social Analysis and Concentration II is Cultural, Literary, and Visual Analysis. Within each track,students will select a geographic area of concentration, e.g. Africa, African America, the Caribbean & Latin America, and Emerging Studies of the Global African Diaspora. All students will take a minimum of ten courses in Africana Studies and related fields before taking the qualifying exam by the end of the second year of graduate study.

There will be two required courses that introduce students to the field of Africana Studies. They are, Seminar in Africana Studies I – Historical, Political and Social Analysis, and Seminar in Africana Studies II – Cultural, Literary,and Visual Analysis. The seminars introduce students to the two main tracks in the program as well as the relevant theoretical and methodological concerns. Students will complete the required seminars during the first year and in consultation with the Special Committee will develop a program of study within major and minor areas of concentration. All students must demonstrate proficiency in one language other than English. This requirement can be satisfied by taking a proficiency exam upon entering the program or by taking the relevant language course. In a given semester students may carry only one incomplete, which must be completed by the end of the following semester. The Graduate School at Cornell requires six semesters of full‐time study and"prides itself on not imposing requirements for courses or credits but in promoting academic freedom and flexibility."

Requirements Summary

  • All Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants   
  • Personal statement   
  • Writing sample   
  • Three letters of recommendation on letterhead   
  • GRE general test advised

To Apply

If you are interested in learning more about this program, please contact Jessie Hilliker, Graduate Field Coordinator, at

For general inquires, e-mail or call the Africana Center at 607-255-4625.

Africana Graduate Theses