Graduate Study

Designated Emphasis in African American and African Studies (DEAAAS)

                            DEAAS Students December 2018

The mission of the Designated Emphasis in African American and African Studies (DEAAAS) is to provide doctoral students with training in African American, African Diaspora, or African Studies. The Designated Emphasis serves the students who identify African American, African Diaspora, and/or African Studies subject matter as the focus of their proposed dissertations by helping them increase their understanding of the breadth of past and present research in African American, African Diaspora and African Studies. There are currently 15 Ph.D. programs affiliated with the DE in African and African American Studies: Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, Ecology, Education, English, French, French and Francophone Studies, Geography, History, Performance Studies, Sociology, Spanish, Study of Religion, and Native American Studies.

View the DEAAS Handbook.

Designated Emphasis:

Current Graduate Students:


Chair, Graduate Designated Emphasis: Bettina Ng’weno -

If you are interested in TA-ing for the African American & African Studies Department, open positions can be found on Handshake. Hiring for the upcoming academic year takes place in April/May of the preceding year (ex: the applications for Fall 2022, Winter 2023, and Spring 2023 TA-ships opened in April 2022). Reader positions are posted a couple months before the start of the relevant quarter and are dependent on enrollment. Announcements about applications should be sent out by your Graduate Program Coordinator, but if you have any other AAS questions, please contact the AAS, AMS, and GSW Program Coordinator, Anna Juline.


Research Clusters

Davis Humanities Institute (DHI), Current Research Clusters:


CORE FACULTY: African American and African Studies Department

Moradewun A. Adejunmobi, Ph.D., French (Professor)
Fields of Interest: African literature, West African popular culture and film, Francophone studies, multilingualism.

Milmon Harrison, Ph.D Sociology (Associate Professor)
Fields of Interest: African Americans in the US, Black Christianity, Prosperity Gospel, Black Religion in Popular Culture, Black Migration to California, Digital Storytelling and Qualitative Methodologies

Bettina Ng’weno, Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology (Associate Professor)
Chair, Graduate Designated Emphasis: Bettina Ng’weno -

Fields of Interest: Citizenship and Politics, Territory and Property, Race and Ethnicity, Social Justice, Cities, and Space in Latin America, Africa and the Indian Ocean, Methodology.

Elisa Joy White, Ph. D., African Diaspora Studies (Associate Professor)
Fields of Interest: African Diaspora studies, Black Europe, cosmopolitan and new Diaspora communities

Benjamin D. Weber, Ph.D., History (Assistant Professor)
Fields of Interest: African American History; Africana Political Thought; Critical Carceral Studies; Racial Capitalism; Abolitionism; Black Geographies; Colonialism and Decolonization; Antiracist Movements; Critical Theory; Law and Society.

Shingirai Taodzera, Ph.D., International Development (Assistant Professor)

Fields of Interest: Political economy of development in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa; governance of extractive natural resources, energy, and the environment; liberation movements and nation-building; traditional kingdoms in post-colonial African politics; presidential politics in Africa; comparative analysis of state systems; political violence, civil war, and post-conflict resolution




All students in good academic standing, who have been admitted to participating Ph.D. programs, are eligible for admission. The candidate should apply to the Designated Emphasis in African American and African Studies through the Chair of the Designated Emphasis. Interested students should send their applications, consisting of a letter of intent and a letter of support from their home program/department chair verifying their standing to: the AAS Chair and The Chair of the Designated Emphasis in African American & African Studies, 2201 Hart Hall.

Course Requirements

To complete a DEAAAS, three (3) courses for a total of 12 units are required as stipulated below:

Students will select two (2) from the following courses, for a total of 8 units. Courses are not sequential and may be taken in any order (instructors’ names in parentheses):

AAS 201: Critical Foundations in African-American Studies (Weber, White, Harrison)

AAS 202: Critical Foundations in African Studies (Adejunmobi, Taodzera)

AAS 203: Critical Foundations in African Diaspora Studies (Ng’weno, White, Weber)

AAS 204: Methodologies in African American & African Studies (Ng’weno, Harrison, Weber)

AAS 298A: Directed Group Study in African American and African Diaspora Studies

AAS 298B: Directed Group Study in African Studies

Required independent study (4 units) leading to a research paper on a topic relevant to student’s dissertation and within the discipline of African American and/or African Studies:

AAS 299: Directed Research (Independent Study)

Electives: No required elective courses required.

Qualifying Examination Requirements

The Ph.D. qualifying examination shall include examination of knowledge within the Designated Emphasis and the Ph.D. program after all course requirements for both programs have been satisfied. At least one faculty member of the DEAAS will be selected to serve on the Qualifying Examination Committee of each student, upon recommendation of the DEAAS Executive Committee, in consultation with the student. The DE faculty member(s) will be responsible for the DE portion of the examination. Satisfactory performance on the Qualifying Examination toward the Ph.D. in student’s primary discipline will be judged independently from performance on the examination for the DE.

Dissertation Requirements, Degree Conferral & Student Advising

A member of the DEAAAS will be a member of the student’s dissertation committee. The dissertation topic must be relevant to the field of African American and/or African Studies. The designated emphasis will be awarded solely in conjunction with the Ph.D. and will be signified by the degree designation “Ph.D. in X with Emphasis in African American and African Studies” where X is one of the affiliated Ph.D. programs listed above. Students will be placed with faculty, based on the fit between the professor’s area of specialization and/or expertise and the student’s interests. A current list of faculty teaching the 200-series courses, and their respective topics, will be provided to students to help them plan their program relative to the DE course offerings to ensure normative degree process.

Normative Time Impact on Progress to Doctorate

The time to finishing will be only modestly affected. While twelve units will obviously require an additional time commitment for students, the concentrated focus on African American and African Studies will serve them well as they develop their dissertations, prepare for exams and embark on the job market.