African American Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The African American Studies graduate program focuses on life, culture, and social organization (broadly defined) of persons of African descent. Africa, North America, and the Caribbean are central components of the program. Students are expected to apply a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the international and national divisions of race as they pertain to persons of African descent, wherever they may find themselves. Such an approach is to be employed for the study and understanding of development and underdevelopment, domination and power, self-determination, cooperation, and aesthetic and creative expression. Issues of identity construction, marginality, territoriality, and the universal role of race in the organization of political economy and in class formation are critical to the program's intellectual agenda.

Applications are accepted for the PhD program only.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant comes from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants from countries or political entities in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to applicants from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:
    • courses in English as a Second Language,
    • courses conducted in a language other than English,
    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and
    • courses of a non-academic nature.

If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests.

Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Admission to the Program

Applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree and should demonstrate a general knowledge of African American history and an understanding of the disciplinary bases for the study of the African diaspora. Demonstrated knowledge in the field should include understanding relations among social, economic, and political structures and culture in African American life.

Students are admitted to graduate studies in the fall semester only. Applicants must file:

  1. A University of California, Berkeley graduate application.
  2. Two official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended.
  3. Three letters of recommendation.
  4. Writing sample (no more than 15 pages) that best reflects their program/research interests.
  5. TOEFL (required for all international students).

Students who have been accepted to this program and have earned a master's degree in another program will be evaluated based on requirements for the pre-qualifying examinations.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Program Requirements

A minimum of two years or four semesters of academic residence is required by the university for all PhD programs. Academic residence is defined as enrollment in at least 12 units in the 200 series of courses. Thus, every graduate student must enroll in and complete a minimum of 12 units of graduate course work per required semester of academic residency. After successful completion of course work with a minimum GPA of 3.30, a pre-qualifying examination based upon general knowledge in the field of African American Studies will be administered by the department.

Academic Preparation

Applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree and should demonstrate a general knowledge of African American history and an understanding of the disciplinary bases for the study of the African diaspora. Demonstrated knowledge in the field should include understanding relations among social, economic, and political structures and culture in African American life. Applicant records must also demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language at the undergraduate level comparable to this university's language requirement.


Courses per individualized approved study list


African American Studies

AFRICAM 201A Interdisciplinary Research Methods 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018, Fall 2014, Fall 2012
This seminar will provide a detailed introduction and working knowledge of the various methodological techniques appropriate for interdisciplinary research on the African Diaspora.

Interdisciplinary Research Methods: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 201B Qualitative Research Methods for African American Studies 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2017, Spring 2016
A review of competing epistemologies in qualitative research of African Americans.

Qualitative Research Methods for African American Studies: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 201D Theories of the African Diaspora 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2017, Fall 2016, Fall 2013
This course is intended to provide students with an initial background for the composition of the position paper discussing the concept and study of African Diaspora necessary for passing department qualifying exams. It will introduce some of the theoretical frameworks for, and approaches to, scholarship concerning the African Diaspora.

Theories of the African Diaspora: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 240 Special Topics in Cultural Studies of the Diaspora 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2017, Spring 2016
One hour of lecture per week per unit. Topics will vary from term to term depending on student demand and faculty availability.

Special Topics in Cultural Studies of the Diaspora: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 241 Special Topics in Development Studies of the Diaspora 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017
One hour of lecture per week per unit. Topics will vary from term to term depending on student demand and faculty availability.

Special Topics in Development Studies of the Diaspora: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 242 Special Topics in African Linguistics 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2015, Fall 2014, Spring 2012
Topics will vary to suit student demand or interest. The seminar will require solid grounding in linguistic theory.

Special Topics in African Linguistics: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 250 Black Intellectuals: Social and Cultural Roles 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2011, Spring 2001, Spring 1999
The course will examine the development of an intellectual group in African American life from the 18th century to the present. Implicit in the examination is consideration of the social and cultural roles, writers, scholars, artists, and other thinkers have played in American and African American culture.

Black Intellectuals: Social and Cultural Roles: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 252 Researching Race, Gender and Justice 4 Units

Terms offered: Not yet offered
This course is designed to encourage the development of an intersectional sensibility among scholars working in the area of race, gender and justice, broadly defined. In addition to providing a theoretical and methodological introduction to sociological literature on the practice of intersectionality in research and writing, we will also use a cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary set of readings, along with discussions and assignments, to examine historical
and contemporary trends in how Black women and girls experience institutional and interpersonal threats of violence, policing and punishment; from the convict lease system to the crisis of mass incarceration and ending with a consideration of the experiences of Black women and girls.
Researching Race, Gender and Justice: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 256B Diaspora, Citizenship, and Transnationality 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2010, Spring 2010, Fall 2008
This seminar analyzes the social construction and reproduction of diasporic communities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. It examines the relations of the diaspora to the homeland in the context of the globalization process. The role of transnational migration and deterritorialization in the production of bipolar, fragmented, and multiple identities will be analyzed. Postnational models of citizenship--differentiated, transnational, and multicultural--will
be assessed in light of poststructuralist theories.
Diaspora, Citizenship, and Transnationality: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 257A Identity Politics in the Caribbean and Africa 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2010, Spring 2008, Spring 2006
An exhaustive examination of the conditions under which identity constructs (race, ethnicity, nation, religion, language, region, etc.) come to occupy the symbolic center in the organization of mass political movements in non-industrialized Third World societies. The course will be comparative in scope using case histories from Africa and the Caribbean. It will focus on the relationship between the "politics of identity," national
economic decision making, and the distribution of economic, social, cultural, and symbolic capital.
Identity Politics in the Caribbean and Africa: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 257B Power, Domination, and Ideology 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2012, Spring 2011, Spring 2009
This course will focus on theories and realities of power, domination, and ideology as they pertain to issues of identity in the post-World War II political economies of Africa and the African diaspora.

Power, Domination, and Ideology: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 262 Black Feminist Criticism 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2009, Fall 2007, Fall 2006
This course will focus on the development of a black feminist criticism(s). We will be specifically concerned with the writings of significant black women critics of the 19th and 20th centuries who have used intersections of class, race, and gender to analyze major issues of their time.

Black Feminist Criticism: Read More [+]

AFRICAM C265 Research Advances in Race, Diversity, and Educational Policy 3 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2016
This introductory graduate seminar will engage the research literature on race, diversity, and educational policy to provide a foundation for examining contemporary issues in American public schooling. We will examine research on race, culture, and learning alongside more policy driven research on school structures, governance, finance, politics, and policy. In doing so, we will blend micro level examinations of teaching and learning with macro
level considerations of politics and policy.
Research Advances in Race, Diversity, and Educational Policy: Read More [+]

AFRICAM C286 The Education of African-American Students 3 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2012, Fall 2010, Spring 2010
This seminar will examine a wide range of perspectives on the education of African American children and adolescents in the United States. Readings will support students in understanding some of the key issues and tensions in African American education and school achievement, including the roles that culture, identity, parents, families, and communities play in the education and schooling of African American students; systemic issues in educational
improvement and the perpetuation of "achievement gaps"; and language and power.
The Education of African-American Students: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 296 Directed Dissertation Research 1 - 13 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017
Open to qualified students who have been advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree and are directly engaged in doctoral dissertation research.

Directed Dissertation Research: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 298 Master's Examination Preparation Course 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2017, Spring 2016, Spring 2015
This class is designed to prepare second year graduate students for the spring Master's Examination in African Diaspora Studies. Basing our syllabus upon the established reading list, we will meet weekly to discuss individual texts, methods of interpreting and critiquing works across disciplines, strategies for reading, studying, and ultimately taking the exam itself.

Master's Examination Preparation Course: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 299 Individual Study or Research 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2013
Individual study or research program to be worked out with sponsoring faculty before approval by department chair. Regular meetings arranged with faculty sponsor.

Individual Study or Research: Read More [+]

AFRICAM C375 Critical Pedagogy: Instructor Training 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2016
The seminar provides a systemic approach to theories and practices of critical pedagogy at the university level. Examines the arts of teaching and learning and current disciplinary and cross-disciplinary issues in African/diaspora and Ethnic Studies. Participation two hours per week as practicum in 39, "Introduction to the University: African American Perspectives" is mandatory. The course is required for students expecting to serve as
graduate student instructors in the department.
Critical Pedagogy: Instructor Training: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 601 Individual Study for Master's Students 1 - 8 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2018
Individual study for the master's requirements in consultation with the adviser. Units may not be used to meet either unit or residency requirements for the master's degree.

Individual Study for Master's Students: Read More [+]

AFRICAM 602 Individual Study for Doctoral Students 2 - 12 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017
Individual study, in consultation with group faculty, to prepare students for the doctoral oral examinations. A student will be permitted to accumulate a maximum of 8 units toward examination preparation. Units earned in this course may not be used to meet academic residence or unit requirements for the master's or doctoral degree.

Individual Study for Doctoral Students: Read More [+]

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Brandi N. Catanese, Associate Professor. Critical race theory, African American theater, non-traditional casting, racial performativity, gender studies, sexuality studies, American popular culture.
Research Profile

Chiyuma Elliott, Assistant Professor. Poetry and poetics, visual culture, creative writing, intellectual history.

Nikki Jones, Associate Professor. African American communities, policing, racial/gender disparities and the criminal justice system, violence and violence interventions.
Research Profile

Michel Laguerre, Professor. Globalization, information technology, urban studies.
Research Profile

Jovan Scott Lewis, Assistant Professor. Jamaica and the USA; constructions and infrastructures of poverty, inequality, race (blackness), economy, and the market.
Research Profile

Sam A. Mchombo, Associate Professor. African languages, linguistics, political development, sports and politics, national identity, globalization.

Na'ilah Nasir, Professor. Race, culture and schooling, African American achievement.

G. Ugo Nwokeji, Associate Professor. Atlantic slave trade, historical demography, African history and political economy, oil and gas policy.
Research Profile

Tianna Paschel, Assistant Professor. Racial ideology, politics and globalization in Latin America, Black political subjects, transnationalism.

John Powell, Professor. Civil rights and civil liberties, structural racialization, racial justice and regionalism, concentrated poverty and urban sprawl, opportunity based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States, South Africa and Brazil, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, and the needs of citizens in a democratic society.
Research Profile

Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor. Social movements, visual culture, memory, photography, African American history and culture.
Research Profile

Darieck Scott, Associate Professor. 20th and 21st century African American literature; creative writing; queer theory, and LGBTQ studies; race, gender and sexuality in fantasy, science fiction, and comic books.

Janelle Scott, Associate Professor. Educational policy, charter schools, politics of education, race and education, school choice, desegregation, philanthropy and education, advocacy.
Research Profile

Stephen Small, Professor. Public history, collective memory, African diaspora in Europe.
Research Profile

+ Ula Taylor, Professor. African American studies, cultural African American history, colonial times, civil rights movement of the 60's, African American women's history, cultural, institutional and individual racism, United States.
Research Profile


Michael Cohen, Lecturer SOE.

Aya De Leon, Lecturer.

David Kyeu, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Robert Allen, Professor Emeritus.

William M. Banks, Professor Emeritus.

Charles Henry, Professor Emeritus. Human rights, Black politics, race and public policy.
Research Profile

Percy Hintzen, Professor Emeritus.

Margaret B. Wilkerson, Professor Emeritus.

Contact Information

Department of African American Studies

660 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-7084

Fax: 510-642-0318

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Ula Taylor

Phone: 510-642-7084

Graduate Adviser and Policy Analyst

Lindsey Villarreal

664A Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-3419

Undergraduate Adviser

Althea Grannum-Cummings

608 Barrows Hall

Phone: 510-642-8513

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