This dimension of our organization deals directly with questions and issues pertaining to Africana Studies as a discipline and as such, its epistemology, methodology, and pedagogy.
Written by Serie McDougal
Africana Studies’ mission centralizes three things: academic excellence, social responsibility, and cultural grounding (Karenga, 2002). How that mission shapes the research process conceptually and technically is the focus of this article. Africana Studies is distinguished not by what or who is studied, but by how and why it is studied. Africana Studies grounds itself in the cultural location of peoples of African descent. The Africana Studies researcher engages in study for the purpose of improving the lived experiences of people of African descent. This is a proposal for how an Africologist may go about selecting a topic in a way that is consistent with the triple mission of the discipline. It also covers the purpose and process of writing and organizing a literature review.
The Intersecting Interests Theory for Research in Africana Studies
This author asserts the Intersecting Interests Theory (IIT) for research in Africana Studies. The realm in which an Africana Studies researcher operates is at the intersection of his or her interests and developing expertise and the needs and concerns of the people (people of African descent). The IIT approach is designed to guide researchers in the process of producing research that is interesting and important to them and relevant to the community. Such an approach is meant to encourage and facilitate the production of scholarship that demonstrates creativity, quality, and relevance. Another purpose of IIT is to help researchers avoid two problems: researcher-centered research and ritualistic research. It is important that scholars research issues that are important to them and interesting to them. Why? The reason for identifying an area that is of interest to the researcher is that ultimately the researcher will need to spend hours reading about it, writing about it, thinking about it, and analyzing it. It is far more likely that researchers will do those things and do them well if they have chosen an area that is intriguing, interesting, and important to them. Researcherss are more likely to do those important things if they are researching things they are genuinely interested in. Researchers are more likely to develop unique, imaginative, and creative research if they are committed to what they are researching. If a researcher doesn’t have that genuine interest, it is less likely that they will produce quality research. In fact, they are more susceptible to producing poor-quality research. We know from our discussion of ethics in research that poor-quality research is unethical because it means you are contributing poor scholarship to an important issue.
Why does an Africologist’s research have to overlap with the needs and concerns of the larger community? Research in Africana Studies is not meant to be a self-serving act. It is not just about you as a researcher; Africologists are writing for others, too. They should be using their knowledge and skill to conduct research that will provide the information necessary to improve a social condition or bring greater understanding to a critical issue. We are not just trying to produce research that is terribly interesting. We want to make sure that it is relevant as well.
Keep in mind what happens if the scholar has research that is not socially relevant. What if they are conducting research that is simply intriguing to the researcher? This is the definition of speculative scholarship or researcher-centered research. Purely speculative scholarship is outside of the mission of Africana Studies. The same is true for the opposite. What if you conduct research that you are not interested in or committed to? This is the ritualistic approach to research, and you are more prone to produce low-quality scholarship if you are engaged in ritualistic research. Research can turn into a dull, boring, and mundane process when the researcher has not chosen a topic that is interesting, curious, or intriguing to them. When choosing a topic that is not interesting, the author may ultimately be hurting the people they are conducting research about by producing low-quality work with unreliable conclusions and unreliable suggestions for improving society. Africology is meant to be cultural grounded, relevant, and orienting toward improving the lives of people of African descent.
Karenga, M. (2010). Introduction to Black studies (4th ed). Los Angeles, CA: University of Sankore Press.